Archive for October, 2015

Making INNSMOUTH PORTRAITS

October 21, 2015

Hi kiddies!

The monstrous fish people created by J. Anthony Kosar and his team at Kosart Effects are amazing!  I knew early on that I wanted to shoot portraits of these Deep One characters to compliment my main INNSMOUTH photograph.  Because the story by H.P. Lovecraft Shadow Over Innsmouth was written in 1931 and describes generations of Innsmouth inhabitants going back decades, I decided to shoot the portraits as genuine wet plate photographs utilizing photo technology from the 1800’s.

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The Veteran

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The Madame

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The Bride

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The Merchant

This type of wet plate photography is like alchemy and utilizes dangerous chemicals that can asphyxiate you or even cause an explosion.   Out of my depth technically, but still insistent upon authenticity, I recruited my friend and knowledgeable wet plate photographer Steve Wilson to come in and help.  I met Steve Wilson when I worked for him at Hallmark Cards as a young photographer. He was an early important mentor and it was joyous and nostalgic to work with him again.

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We shot the portraits in my home.  Kosar and I dressed wooden mannequins in period costumes and posed them for the camera.

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Steve used a powerful HMI light because wet plate has a very slow exposure time and requires a crazy amount of light.  I loved the idea that some young man from Innsmouth participated in the Civil War as a Massachusetts resident.

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Here you can see Steve manning the giant 8×10 View Camera.  He was very generous in allowing me to help frame and light our portrait subjects.

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After exposing a metal plate that he had prepared with a light-sensitive chemical coating, Steve would remove the plate from the camera and develop it my kitchen while we watched with amazement.

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I think Steve’s artistry and the singular aesthetics of the wet plate process lend themselves beautifully to gothic subject matter, and hope for further collaborations in the future!

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Interested in owning a print?  11×14 archival prints are currently for sale in my Online Store!

More Innsmouth goodies coming soon!

Making INNSMOUTH

October 1, 2015

Hi kiddies!

This is my new photograph called INNSMOUTH.  This image is based on the story Shadow Over Innsmouth by legendary Horror author H.P. Lovecraft. This photograph stars actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) as the victim and features Special FX from frequent collaborator and Face/Off champion J. Anthony Kosar and his talented team at Kosart Studios.

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In the 1931 story Shadow Over Innsmouth, the human victim is chased through the streets of the seaside town of Innsmouth by a teeming mob of monstrous fish people called the Deep Ones. The imagery of a sole individual being pursued by a city full of monsters is similar to Invasion of The Body Snatchers, I Am Legend, or any modern zombie movie, but exists first in Shadow Over Innsmouth.  As with my previous zombie photograph LAST STAND, INNSMOUTH is populated by a horde of monsters, not just one!

Staging the scene in deep focus with extreme foreground elements was inspired by my love for Citizen Kane.  Giving the monsters daggers was inspired by the assassination scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  There are no daggers in the original story, but Lovecraft does make a point of describing the strange gold jewelry worn by the Deep Ones.  I changed the gold jewelry into golden knives, so that my swarm of monsters could fish-gut their cornered victim.

We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for this ambitious tribute to H.P. Lovecraft to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth. Many talented people came together for this grand collaboration.

My cousins Steve and Jerry Hoffine and Mike Clouse from the haunted house 3rd St. Asylum in Bonner Springs, Kansas built the walls in Jerry’s carpentry shop.  They are all big men and accustomed to wearing masks for extended periods of time, so they also flew to Chicago to play the lead monsters in the photo-shoot.

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Our friend Kyle Stanley helped paint the styrofoam brick walls.  Kyle is a professional artist and has a booming business making custom illustrated shoes.  He drove up to Chicago to play a monster as well. Kyle is the monster on the far right with the bowler hat and bugging eyes.

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My faithful assistant Demian Vela transported me, all of my photo equipment, and the brick wall we created in a rented U-Haul trailer from Kansas City to J. Anthony Kosar’s studio in Chicago.  He also plays one of the monsters in the photo!

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Kosar and his talented team spent weeks creating the crowd of Deep Ones. Kosar acted as Concept Designer, FX Supervisor, and Lead Artist, with Jamie Leodones and Stevie Calabrese leading the charge as key artists, and Dina Cimarusti, Matt Kapolczynski, and Neil Viola jumping in as additional sculptors.  Joseph Kosar, as always, helped every step of the way.

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The great Celine Collins at MonkeyWrench Clothing hand-made the costume for my star Doug Jones.  I wanted him dressed as a white collar city slicker – an outsider – to contrast the blue collar mob of Innsmouth locals.  He was forced to abandon his coat and tie and hat in his hasty retreat.

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Doug Jones is famous to Horror fans for his roles in HellBoy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crimson Peak, and countless other movies. Here you can see my wife and savior Jen Hoffine adjusting Doug’s sleeve on set at Kosar’s studio.  Everyone was giddy to spend time with Doug.

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Kosar created a virtual army of monsters as pull-over masks and gloves. With my encouragement, he mixed elements of piranha and the Creature from the Black Lagoon into his designs.  His collection of Deep Ones is truly amazing!

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Here you can see Kosar giving Doug possibly the easiest make-up application of his illustrious career as film actor and suit performer.

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In addition to Demian, Kyle, and the Cousins, several other friends suited up to play monsters, including Justin Gardner, Mark Lancaster, Coye Vega, and Dan Dudych.  Costumes and prop knives were loaned to us by Jerry Vest at my favorite prop house Have Guns Will Rent in Kansas City.

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I used several strobe lights to ensure my  whole scene would be in focus at F/22, including a special battery-powered strobe inside the lantern.  Thank you to photographer Barrett McGivney for the additional equipment, tech support, and behind-the-scenes photos.

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Spending time with Doug Jones is too awesome to convey in words.

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Careful framing and the liberal use of fog completed the illusion of an outdoor night scene.

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The brick building in the distant background of the final shot is actually 3rd St. Asylum, the haunted house run by my Cousins.  I photographed their brick building one evening at dusk and composited that detail into the background behind my original staged scene with the costumed models and fog.  If I’d had more money, I might’ve built the entire city as a set.  As it is, the illusion is seamless and I enjoy the secret nod to my Cousins.

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A huge thank you to my MasterMind/Producer on this project Chad Hawks – pictured here in red on the far left – who worked harder than anybody to make this project a reality!

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A special thank you to my chief collaborators on this project – the magical Doug Jones, and the brilliant Special FX artists J. Anthony Kosar, Jamie Leodones, and Stevie Calabrese!  Such fantastic work!

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And lastly a tremendous heartfelt thank you to all of our Kickstarter supporters, especially our mega-backers Matthew & Dawn Cheek and family, and Alan Harris!  And a big thank you to the leaders of the H.P. Lovecraft community who helped spread the word about our project – including Aaron Vanek and James Knouse at the HPLFF in Los Angeles, Neils Hobbs at NecronomiCon in Rhode Island, Brian & Gwen Callahan at CthulhuCon and the Arkham Bazaar and HPLFF in Portland, Tom Jenkins, Mike Davis at the HPL-Ezine, Chad & Chris at the HPL Literary Podcast, and Sean Branney & Andrew Leman at the HPL Historical Society. We could never have done this without you! Hail Cthulhu!

To own a signed print of this photograph visit my Online Store.  Signed 13×19 Archival Prints are On Sale with FREE SHIPPING.

More Innsmouth goodies coming soon!