One of the blogs most popular posts is the 2011 post featuring actor Teddy Sears from American Horror Store: Murder House. Teddy, currently on Masters Of Sex had one of the shows most creative, and gruesome, killings, the anal impalement via the fireplace poker from the leather wearing man.
I tend to believe that most of the terrors and fears that follow us into adulthood can be tracked back to our childhood. Moments of fear we experienced so powerfully that they left an imprint on our brain that gives us a little shake every time an emotional trigger is visualized or experienced.
Following this train of thought then, means so does ones imagination. The ability to dream vividly, partake in imaginary play allow us as adults to expand our visual boundaries to bring life, or in some cases death, to situation's, inanimate objects and experiences. To those without this ability, Halloween is simply costumes, pumpkins, mini bars and caramels. However with the ability to tap into the terrors of our youth, along of course with the play, Halloween is so much more.
Sadly, tapping into the macabre isn't always something others understand or respect. Even with the art community, there can be boundaries put up around what is supposed to be a boundary free field of passion and expression. On ModelMayhem for example, peel every stitch of clothing off a model, (especially a female model) and the work is welcomed and cheered. Start peeling away their skin however, to expose nerves, organs and guts, and limits may be imposed....except of course during the dwindling days of October.
During Halloween week, these images are however celebrated, at least on banners. E, of Erocktography says that usually he can't usually use any of his blood and gore/crazier stuff to bring people in on MM, but since they do the horror banners this time of year, he figures they aren't going to say anything to him about using the darkness of the day within his work. E has always had an interest in masks/horror/weirdness, since he was a little kid. One of the reasons E has a focus on this kind of material is that it is also so much more fun to shoot than conventional photography. 'It's easier to stand out in this area than be lost in the sea of brilliant glamour photogs'. Living in the bible belt it can be a struggle at times to find models and collaborators and as well, to have his work seen.
'I do anything really, but it is the Dark, Horror, Campy and Crazy that really gets my ticker ticking.'
Killer Tranny Clown
It is the blend of dark and crazy, along with a dash of campy, (and duh.. his incredible body) that drew me to E's work. Some of the images are initially quite terrifying, even a tad disgusting but looking a little closer, and reading E's image description takes the edge off a little and gives the viewer a peak at the artists motivation, intelligence and most of all humour. The humour however appears slanted more in the direction of the satirical more than funny as though I laughed at some of the descriptions, they also added an additional layer of horror, the layer of reality...
After posting those original Walmart blood inspired shots, back when Myspace was a big deal, E found himself receiving a large and positive response to the images. He ultimately discovered Model Mayhem and began to find more people to work with. Most are a few hours away as according to E, the area in which he lives is pretty much a wasteland for it. Although he often travels to Nashville and California to find models to shoot, E says that for whatever reason, it is the images of himself that have drawn in more traffic and gotten more views and comments.
Mail order bride shipping department.
'Maybe it's because I best know how to convey what I want to show.. but a lot of the times those shots came out of boredom and me not having a model to work with. I have a list of ideas as long as my arm that I want to do with others and eventually hope to do most of them. Most are crazy/twisted/outright horrific things. I'm a pretty goofy guy so there is a lot of silly in what I do.'
And how did YOU think they made it?
I think E has pretty much nailed it, his self shots do contain a purity and essence of what ever expression, emotion or depiction of horror he is going for. That, mixed with the silly that not all models could as easily blend into the work as beautifully. E is also incredibly good looking and photographs well himself, and...as we all know far too well from horror movies, monsters tend to gut, impale, bludgeon and decapitate the good looking people first...
'Ohh yes... They Float Georgie... They Float... and when your down here, with me... YOU FLOAT TOO!'
Stephen King, IT
'Russ Simon is a gifted makeup artist with an eye for detail. He's L.A. trained at MUDD make-up designery in Burbank but works in Detroit. He can do everything from turn you into a beast for Halloween to take ten years off you and highlight all your best features for your wedding day. And to top off his unbelievable professionalism, he's one of the funniest and most genuine people you can ever hope to meet. He's my best friend, I'm very proud of him!'
Is there anything more terrifying than a clown. Reading IT gave me nightmares, seeing the mini-series however, then brought them to life... For some however, clowns can actually bring joy. Not the demented clowns above mind you, but circus clowns seem to have the power to bring smiles to some and mind numbing fear to others. I think the skill and ability to bring forth such dramatically opposing emotions is one of the marks of a great artist and in the case of this post, there are three of them.
Houston Heller by Ted Sun
Last summer, while profiling Los Angeles based photographer Ted Sun, (A Taste Of Honey) I spent quite a bit of time immersed in his images. Ted's work, based in fashion and figure beautifully expands to the seductive and sensual with more than a hint of mystery and darkness weaved within. Ted's nude work in particular is filled with distinctive elements which bring an air erotic danger to the viewer. Through lighting, poses, the use of masks, and in the case of Jayk, who I profiled in August, covering his naked body head to toe in honey.
There was one masked man in particular who stood out when viewing Ted's work one I wanted to devote particular attention to. Model Houston Heller has an incredible face and body and killer blue eyes. What I loved so much however about Houston's work was not just the courage he demonstrates to expose his body, but the courage to expose much more, sometimes by covering it.
The first two images in this piece, featuring a homicidal Houston in clown white come from make-up artist Russ Simon. Houston calls Russ Simon not only a crazy talented makeup artist, but also his best friend. When Russ is done, Houston's beautiful face morphs from pleasant to psychopathic and it's fascinating how covering a face, even in heavy clown make-up, can expose emotions much more difficult to express without it.
It was interesting that the first images that grabbed me from Ted Sun's work with Houston also included images with his face partially covered, in this case with a mask. Both Ted Sun and Houston love to push limits within their work and the images they created together show so many facets of Houston's personality and abilities in front of the camera.
Ted first came across Houston on the set of "Luna Park", the 2013 NYC Black Party trailer video by Justin Monroe (below). Ted was helping out with the projet by taking behind-the-scenes photographs, and says that Houston really stood out to him. He had such a great presence in front of the camera, and gave me a good vibe whenever I pointed the camera at him - and I wanted to photograph him more.' Ted had some series that was working on at the time, including the 'nude masquerade' and 'honey' shots so they to meet up to work on those, along with some portraits.
'When collaborating with a new model, I like to know what what they are about - what else they do or what interests them, before interpreting how to see them. I was interested very interested in Houston's spiritual side, with his practice of yoga and thai yoga massage... so doing portraits of him with mala beads felt appropriate. On a more basic level, he has such striking blue eyes, so I wanted to highlight those.'
Ted says that their first shoot went very well, and a couple months later, Houston contacted him about wanting to do another, this time an underwater shoot. Ted also had been looking to an underwater themed shoot inspired by his friend and mentor Ed Freeman, who has a stunning underwater series. During his years travelling, Ted had become certified in Scuba Diving, and already had an underwater casing for his camera, but until now, had never had an opportunity to use it. According to Ted, Houston was a real pro during the shoot.
'While I had snorkel gear to help me breath while submerged underwater... he had to repeatedly hold his breath, and jump in-and-out of the pool. He's committed to getting the shots and is always a pleasure to work with.'