Imagine all of your childhood fears brought to life. That anxiety you used to feel, and often relive. The shadows lurking in the dim corners of your mind. Photographer Joshua Hoffine’s work dwells in this nightmarish realm and confronts the viewer with technicolor fragments of our darkest subconscious. His series of photographs, appropriately called After Dark My Sweet, is based on these childhood fears and utilizes elaborate props, special effects makeup and costumes to create a world where the monsters won’t soon let you forget them.
Your work touches upon an irremediable horror that leaves an imprint on us as children. Why do you think this horror never truly leaves us?
We are born with certain inherent and instinctual fears, such as fear of the dark, fear of being grabbed and eaten, and so forth. As we grow older, these fears lose their intensity, and are slowly shuffled away into our unconscious. All of our early traumas, including our early fears, are filed away in our unconscious. My photographs allow people to access these forgotten fears.
You have cited Stephen King’s Danse Macabre as a catalyst for your After Dark, My Sweet series. In the book, King classifies ‘horror’ as terror, horror and revulsion. He feels terror is the greatest achievement an artist can have and revulsion the cheapest. Do you agree with this classification and where do you aim to be with your work?
I completely subscribe to King’s classifications. Terror is cerebral. It is based on suspense, and the sudden understanding of something terrible or frightening. Horror is more visceral. He describes horror as being a reaction to seeing something that is bodily wrong. Decay, deformity, mutilation, even monsters and clowns–all trigger this response. Revulsion, as King describes it, is the ‘gross-out’. I like to use spiders and cockroaches to gain this affect. I do not presume one category to be superior to another. In my opinion, they are all legitimate aspects of the horror artist’s palette. The goal, always, is to disturb–by any means necessary.
I love the influence of film on your work and the fact that you create a set with props for every photo shoot. Have you ever made a foray into film? Why is photography an appropriate medium for the work you are doing right now?
I am slowly working on my first short film, called Black Lullaby. Photography is the perfect medium for horror art. It presents everything literally. The more real the image, the more powerful it is.
I sense that you enjoy working with low-tech materials. Is there a reason for doing that aside from budget? What set or prop are you most proud of making on the cheap?
I love clever, inexpensive answers. And I love the look of practical effects. Especially hand made effects like Michel Gondry. I am proud of the dead mother’s body in Bedside, which was made out of a partial mannequin I found in a thrift store.
Is drawing or writing essential to the development of a new idea?
Rather than drawing a sketch, I prefer to write a short treatment, or descriptive paragraph of an idea.
Your daughters are the models in many of your photographs. What do they think about your work?
They are always very excited to be a part of it. They are exceedingly proud.
Do you see horror and wonder as intersecting feelings?
Both ‘wonder’ and ‘horror’ are responses to something unexpected, something larger than ourselves. But ‘wonder’ is an attraction response, and ‘horror’ is a repulsion response.
What are some of your favorite horror films? Photographers?
Right now, my favorite Horror movie is Martyrs, a brilliant and intense French torture-porn film. Joel Peter Witkin and Robert ParkeHarrison are probably my two favorite photographers.
Can you reveal any details about upcoming projects?
I’m going to try to take some time off to finish Black Lullaby. The next photograph I plan to shoot is called Window, and is part of my childhood fear series, After Dark My Sweet.
Your greatest fear is…?
My greatest fear is having anything ever happen to my children
You can see more of Joshua Hoffine’s work on his website.
All images © Joshua Hoffine and used with permission