Archive for September, 2008

Interview

September 2, 2008

This is the English translation of my interview with Danilo Corci for the Brazilian publication Speculum.

Your work is not well known here in Brazil. Can you tell us a little about your career, when you became interested in photography, if you are only interested in fine art or if you also shoot other kinds of photography, like journalism or advertising.

I started making my first photographs shortly after graduating from college. My focus has always been fine art photography, but I have shot many different kinds of work over the years.

What are your influences?

Horror films, fairy tales, Jungian psychology, the works of Joseph Campbell.

When did you become interested in Horror?

Horror became the principal subject in my work in 2003.

On your website you talk about Jung and the power of cliche, and about the reinvention of archetypes. Obviously this goes through the stories you create in your photographs. How do you choose the stories you want to reinvent through your photographs?

I am interested in creating photographs that employ archetypal imagery to act out universal fears. These are the subjects I look for. The more common or cliched the fear, the more I want to make an image of it. We can all relate to the idea of a monster hiding under the bed, but we’ve never seen a photograph of it before. Through photography, I want to explore archetypes that we are already familiar with. I want to drag our psychological monsters out into the light of day and take pictures of them.

Your work deals with childhood imagination. Is this kind of terror more powerful than the one we have as adults? Does playing with childhood nightmares make adults even more frightened?

We can all remember being children, when our fears were still very primal. My photographs remind adults of things they used to be frightened of, but have forgotten about. Recover the memory, and you recover the fear.

The experience of ‘fright’ is intrinsically related to the level of commitment the viewer has to fearing for the protagonist under threat. This feeling is a responsive emotion which demonstrates a desire to protect someone from harm. If the viewer empathizes with the victim then it is likely that the fright will be mutually experienced. These are the mechanics of Horror.

Your work deals with universal themes, while at the same time reflecting some kind of North American style. Would it be true to say that America has some peculiar form of Horror locked in the back of the head of the country?

While Horror does explore fundamental and universal questions about human existence, it also deals with the anxieties of a given culture at a specific time. Beginning in the 1960’s, with movies like PSYCHO and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I think American Horror has been predominantly concerned with the fear of other people and the threat of social collapse.

I try to style my sets so that they reflect a sense of innocence and nostalgia. Many of the elements in my sets, such as wallpaper patterns and furniture, come from the 1940’s and 1950’s, which for the U.S. represents a period of relative innocence. It helps me to create a familiar psychological backdrop for the primal drama unfolding.

It is impossible to see your work and not think about literature. Do you have any literary background?

Yes. I did not go to art school. I have a degree in English Literature.

Working with disturbing imagery is always a challenge. Where is the thin line between good taste and provocation?

Horror is underpinned by the desire to experience feelings which relate to taboo agendas and the limits of gratification. One of the major functions of Horror is to define cultural taboos. The experience of Horror resides in this confrontation with what is taboo. For me, what is or isn’t in good taste is never a consideration.

Going a little further, where does Joshua Hoffine’s work go in the future? More Horror?

For the foreseeable future, yes, more Horror.


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