Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Honesty in Horror

I may have a bit of an affinity for the genre known as horror. By this, I mean that I'm a horror junkie. I love horror movies, and gothic, dark, creepy art.

I know some may find this slightly strange.

Some may find it immensely strange.

Yet others will find it perfectly normal.

I want to write, today, about why I find this particular genre so alluring. You may disagree, and if so, I understand. But, I feel, that some of my friends (and even family) may wonder about what goes on in my sarcastic, dark little brain sometimes.

Well, if that's you, prepare to be enlightened.

I'll start by noting that the art of horror has, as most art does, two basic forms. There's the goofy, ridiculous, "purely-for-entertainment's-sake" kind. There's also the kind that demands a bit more sombre of an audience. Both have their merits. I will not be addressing the former in this post; I'll, instead, talk about the latter.

Sunday, I participated in my first horror photography shoot. I chose a darker theme. Why?

I'm so glad you asked.

Expressionist Horror, can be an immensely powerful tool, when used correctly. It can communicate disturbing truths, it can give people a pause, it can make people actually think... That is what I hoped to accomplish with the shoot.

Horror, to me, is kind of an "anti" genre. What I mean by that, is that it takes conventional understandings about common themes, and it tips them on their head. It's a morbid kind of satire. Take, for instance, a typical glamour shoot, with models and all. There are specific qualifications these models must meet. They must be so tall, they have to have great skin, they need to  be a certain weight, etc. Then the creators of the shoot go on to create airbrushed goddeses that shape our perceptions of beauty.

Horror shoots may take that concept and twist it. They may take a beautiful face, and warp, distort or otherise create a picture that is entirely unexpected. In doing this, it creates it's own kind of macabre art and beauty, All the king fun of the norm (even though the norm was a facade in the first place).

Another reason I enjoy this particular genre is due to, what I call, the 'Contrast Effect.'

Chances are, if you've ever edited any sort of picture on the computer, you've no doubt used the "contrast" feature that comes with very many, if not all kinds of software. It can turn a picture from something mediocre, and unremarkable, into an image that really stands out.

The interesting thing about contrast is, that, to make an image "pop" and really catch the eye of the passerby, it brings out the extremes of the color spectrum. In black and white images, in particular, contrast boosts the darks, and the highlights.

When this happens, there's very little grey left. The image is a product of two extremes.

Why do I bring this up?

Because, I believe, that a universal truth is this: When you amplify darkness, you're also (if inadvertently) amplifying light as well.

This is why something like Expressionist Horror can be such an effective, powerful form of art, if done correctly. Just look around at the world we inhabit, and you can see clear examples of this.

The horror of natural disasters are contrasted by communities putting aside their needs, to help others who've lost everything.

Cancer afflicts loved ones, and whole communities and support groups form, walking to raise funds for treatment, and honoring hope.

There are those who enslave others and those who, upon hearing the stories of slavery, dedicate their lives to setting others free.

In a strange way, the things that bring us to action about the things that matter are, in fact, tragic things. In some strange, crazy way, humanity is designed to respond at its most altruistic state in the face of darkness. Isn't that odd?

What's interesting to me though, is how the horror genre is often received by the public.

Friends who share this interest can probably relate.

It's labeled "alternative," and is brushed aside dismissively, almost apprehensively. It's horribly ironic, though, given that people digest horror stories every single day. Think about it. Have you ever watched the news? Murder, suicide, shootings, abductions, natural disasters...hell, even politics contain their own brand of horror.

Yet, when an artist attempts to put horror to canvas, it's labeled "alternative," and is even unwelcome in some venues.

Here's what I like most about this genre though. It resonates with me. It's relatable. At the shoot last night, I was talking to a couple of the models, and one said that it was 'the most awful moments of her life' that made her into the person she was today. She said she wouldn't trade it.

It happened. It was horrible. It made her into the person she is today, and she wouldn't trade it.

I would be so bold as to speculate that, without experiencing hell, we can never find heaven. I'd also be so bold as to bet that you've experienced your own special kind of hell. Perhaps you're going through it at this very moment. Perhaps it's a moment of the past. But sooner or later it catches us.

It's in those moments that we're forced to get honest with ourselves. It's those moments which largely define the course of our lives...
That's the honesty I find in horror.

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