If you like your horror filled with jump-cuts, torture, torment and gore, then look no further…
No, really. This isn’t the place for you.
UK-based photographer Amanda Norman has something quite different in mind for her work, drawing her artistic inspiration from the more sumptuous, supernatural scares of classic horror cinema. “No one will forget the shadow of Nosferatu climbing the stairs,” Amanda explains of one of her favourite films: she prefers the aesthetics and atmosphere derived from “a sprinkling of smoke and good creepy locations like old Gothic mansions and creepy graveyards…modern horror is lacking that psychological fear of the unknown. Good original classics are based on the unknown and that’s what I love most about them.”
A completely self-taught photographer, Amanda was clear from the beginning about the style she wished to work in, and she didn’t waste time cutting her teeth on material which she didn’t find interesting. “I don’t plan my shots either. It just comes together, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking of classic horror movies and sometimes I’m doing it without even realising.” One aspect of this can be found in Amanda’s ‘dark portraits’, portraiture which moves away from making the sitter look their pedestrian best, instead aiming to capture something more ghoulish in their appearance – sometimes people are portrayed as zombies, sometimes vampires and sometimes something else entirely…
The type of portrait which emerges, Amanda says, depends entirely on “how the lens sees the sitters: I try to make the sitting a fun experience by getting the model to relax and have a laugh at pulling horror faces. The outcome is most definitely what the lens sees. If a model requested to be a vampire, then I wouldn’t be able to achieve that. It’s all about the model and the pose they make.”
The end results speak for themselves, but is there anyone Amanda would like as a subject for her portraits? “My first choice is Christopher Lee as I’ve admired him since being a young teenager and I used to fantasise so many times about him appearing beside my bed to turn me into a vampire. I wonder if he would still have that charm now.” She adds, “Now of course, these were innocent fantasies!”
The Gothic good looks of Hammer Horror’s best years have had a formative influence on countless horror fans through time, Amanda included, and Amanda is clear about the ‘Gothic’ elements in her photography. Gothic can be a tricky concept to pin down, though, and means different things to different people. I asked her how she’d define the Gothic which she loves so much.
“When I think of Gothic, I’m thinking of the Victorian era, how they celebrated death with their fancy mourning jewellery, black lace, black horse drawn carriages and of course the elaborate stone work in the cemeteries. I also love Gothic architecture,” she explains. Amanda’s ultimate Gothic image from her own work? This great dark portrait of her daughter, Kerry:
In a horror scene saturated with remakes, rehashes and a refusal to leave much to the viewers’ imaginations, it’s little wonder that some fans are looking to older films and styles: Amanda Norman’s work captures that spirit, bringing us imagery which would be more at home in the cinema of Universal and Hammer. If you have a place in your heart for old-school scares – the haunted graveyards, the old dark houses, the dimly-lit landscapes – then Amanda has such sights to show you…
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Many thanks to Amanda Norman