Gallery Descriptions and Miscats Month
This article looks at horror and macabre photography on DeviantArt, although it can also be applied to horror photography in general. We're going to examine what horror photography is and isn't, and also why the context in which you present your horror art is important.
First of all, let's have a look at what horror photography is
The gallery description for Photography > Horror & Macabre on DeviantArt is:
Fine art horror genre photography depicting macabre themes, often using creative lighting, make-up and other physical theatrical effects to construct atmosphere and visual impact.
Fine art photography isn't about skill level or style. It's about intent and content. Basically, a fine art photographer makes photos to express their creative vision, as opposed to representational photography (like photojournalism, which aims to show objective reality) or commercial photography (which aims to sell things). It's art for art's sake.
The End, without words... by wewe18
An intense and visually striking horror photo
Horror and macabre fine art photography is intended to express the creative vision of the artist around fear, death, dread, fright and other gruesome, dark or grotesque concepts. Horror photography doesn't have to be straight-up gross and hideous, or gory and violent, although it can be any or all of those things. It can also be gothic, elegant and even romantic in nature. It's all about capturing the darker side of the imagination, which is as varied and personal as any other aspect of an artist's inner world.
Death and roses by Pureblackmagik
Horror photography can be elegant and romantic
With reference to make-up and other physical theatrical effects, horror photography differs from horror-themed photomanipulations (of which there are many amazing examples on DA) in that the artist creates the horror elements either before they point the camera at the subject, or with how they photograph it.
For example, the use of fake blood and effects make-up to create 'injuries' compared to the use of digital brushes to add blood to a picture. Or capturing an eerie scene of a run-down shack in a forest compared to bringing together stock images of trees and a house then adding grungy decay and mist textures.
The Last House on the Left by FaustGoethe87
An eerie scene captured rather than constructed
Now, let's look at what horror photography isn't
I use the word 'generally' a lot in the following paragraphs because there are exceptions to every rule and I tend not to assume absolutes to be inherent in anything relating to art. Wonderful horror photos are included under each of these points to demonstrate how the elements discussed can be shown appropriately and with relevance to the horror genre.
Horror photography is generally not humourous, light-hearted or casual. While some horror photography involves incredible costume and make-up work, "LOL my halloween costume" snaps are rarely likely to be considered fine art horror genre photography. For the purpose of DA, snapshots are better suited to your Scraps as the photography galleries are for intentional, artistic, representational or commercial photography.
Caster of Maledictions by Onyx-Philomel
Definitely not a "LOL my Halloween costume" snapshot
Horror photography is generally not definable solely by subject. For example, a photograph of a graveyard on a bright sunny day is not automatically horror simply because it involves visual elements relating to death. Conversely, a subject not automatically associated with death, fear or disgust can totally be horror depending on how it's photographed. For example, a city street or an empty country road can be depicted as sinister and creepy depending on the conditions at the time.
The Gathering Storm by Estruda
It's the atmosphere, not simply the subject, that makes this horror photography
I'm going to get really serious for a moment here. Horror photography generally doesn't show real-life suffering. Fine art horror photography expresses concepts and ideas, and is, to an extent, entertainment (albeit often the challenging and not-necessarily-fun kind of entertainment).
Putting a photograph of the body of a victim of war, for example, in the same category as a fine art photograph of a living person made to look like a corpse with make-up is not only inaccurate, but also disrespectful and wildly inappropriate as it trivialises and devalues the experiences of the subject and the photographer.
just a flesh wound by TrishaMonsterr
No humans were harmed in the making of this photograph
Finally, let's think about context and presentation
I'd like to address an issue that is less about the art itself and more about how it's presented. This is going to venture into some pretty grim territory but it's important, so I'm going there. I'm also not including any examples for reasons which will become obvious as you read on
First of all, say it with me, people: Depiction does not equal endorsement. Just because you create art around a certain subject doesn't mean that you're presenting the subject or content as aspirational, desirable or a great example of how to live or what to do. Horror in art and entertainment isn't to everyone's taste anyway for a multitude of completely valid reasons, which is understandable and totally fine. I have little tolerance for people who assume that anyone creating horror art is evil or harmful (cause nope - life, art and humans are more complex than that), but I absolutely respect the views and experiences of people to whom horror art is simply not appealing. You do you.
While the creation of horror art in all mediums can be an authentic, cathartic and challenging experience that inspires people to consider the darker side of the human condition (although it can also just be fun, which is cool too), there is more to a picture than just the picture. When you submit a photograph to DeviantArt, you have the opportunity to describe it and to present it to your audience with a clear context.
As an example, let's think about a photograph of a living person made up to look like a murder victim. Perhaps the 'murderer' is also in the photograph. Maybe they're holding the 'murder weapon'. Perhaps there's 'blood' everywhere. It's a pretty horrible scene, the kind of thing that would be perfectly at home in a film or TV show that has warnings plastered all over it.
When presented as a piece of fine art, with intentionally applied make-up effects, creative lighting and careful composition, maybe also including a description of the techniques and materials used to create the picture, this image is framed as a creative, challenging, subversive photograph that reflects the skill and intent of the artist, and is also entirely, obviously and clearly fictional. Of course it deals with the darker side of humanity and themes of death and violence. It may be considered beautiful, appealing and exciting. But, and let's be very clear on this, it is fictional and it is not intended to be viewed or perceived as anything else.
The same image presented as the enactment of a sexual fantasy, for example, complete with a description about how turned on you got doing whatever you did to your 'victim' before or after you 'killed' them, creates a very different atmosphere because you are implying reality. When people comment on the photo in a manner that plays into that implied reality, and you reply in a similar tone, you leave behind the entertainment of fiction, the catharsis of therapeutic depiction, and the demonstration of image design. You venture into a place where there's a strong implication that the only reason the scene isn't real is that it would be illegal and/or impossible to enact in real life.
This isn't about moral judgment or personal taste. It isn't about what you, or I, find upsetting, disturbing or arousing (and yes, of course horror can be arousing, although obviously it can also not be). It's about context. It's about responsibly and consciously presenting horror genre photography as fiction, entertainment and art, not hate-crime wish-fulfilment.
Thanks for reading
I hope this article has given you something to think about. I encourage everyone with an interest in horror photography to examine the context and the presentation of their art as well as the inspiration behind it and the techniques they use to create it. Now, go forth and make dark and beautiful things
abnormality by 7astral
A dark and beautiful thing indeed!