Joshua Hoffine – Dark Regions Press Interview
By Brian M. Sammons
When you bring up the subject of horror photography, one name jumps easily to mind, or at least it should. That name is Joshua Hoffine, a man with an eye for photography terror like no other. If you have seen any of his work I am positive you remember those amazing images. If you haven’t, boy are you in for a treat, as Dark Regions Press just released a big, beautiful book full of Mr. Hoffine’s fantastic frightful photography. So ecasue of that I tracked the busy man down and we had an enlightening chat of photos, photographing, and capturing the perfect moment of horror.
I have a pretty good idea why authors start to write, but I am clueless when it comes to photographers. So why did you pick up a camera for the first time, what drew you to the art?
I had zero interest in photography growing up. I did not take so much as a snapshot. I could draw well, but didn't take it seriously. As an English major in college I dreamt of becoming a professional poet. But as I moved into my 20's I became more and more interested in film, and thought about going to film school as a post-graduate. When I finished college, I picked up a camera to familiarize myself with the basics, but immediately fell in love with the medium of photography. It clicked for me in a way nothing else had.
Who are some of your influences? Whose work moved you the most?
Joel-Peter Witkin was my first hero. His photographs are disturbing, beautiful, and uncompromising. I was also preoccupied with Frederick Sommers. Later I discovered Robert Parke-Harrison and Gregory Crewdson. My work is laced with their influences.
What do you look for in a photograph? To you what makes a photo good?
A strong concept, coupled with a vivid execution. A good photograph will grab you immediately, and stay with you afterwards.
What made you start doing horror themed photographs?
I love the Horror genre. Always have, even as a boy. One day it occurred to me that while we have Horror movies, and novels, and comics, and video games, there was no such thing as Horror photography. So I set out to make a photograph that was deliberately designed to upset the viewer.
Why did you continue to follow that path?
I exhibited my first Horror photograph in an underground art show and people flipped out. It was the photograph PHOBIA, which features a large tarantula resting on a sleeping toddler. I enjoyed the reaction so much that I immediately began making more. There was no market for these images. No legitimate gallery would touch them. But I loved making them and I I loved watching people react to them. I became dedicated to the project.
Writers hate the dreaded “where do you get your ideas from” question. Do photographers? Because I do want to know where do your photo ideas come from. Do you see some ordinary thing and then, in your mind, put a horrific twist on it or think of something dark and then on how to capture it on film?
I began with common, universal fears. Later I expanded my interests to include stock characters from the Horror genre, like zombies or Jack the Ripper. A single photograph does not allow much room for explanation. Familiarity is a key ingredient. As is subtext. The English major in me relishes the metaphoric capacity of Horror photography, and the Horror genre in general.
Do you have a fully formed idea in mind of the picture you want and then take steps to recreate it, or is it more a general idea and you discover it along the way through lighting, angles, color, etc?
I come to each project with a full-formed mental picture of what I'm trying to create. All the details exist in my head. The task is in finding or creating them in the real world.
What you do seems more challenging than most photographers. Still life, scenic shots, portraits; the subjects are there for real, but your genre, for lack of a better word, horror can have supernatural elements. Have you ever had an idea that you discovered was too difficult to pull off?
All too often! I've had many great concepts that were simply too expensive to make. I write them down though, just in case I win the lottery someday.
What can you tell me about this art book of yours, JOSHUA HOFFINE HORROR PHOTOGRAPHY from Dark Regions Press? The photos you picked for the book, were there any choices you made?
Almost all of my work is in the book. I deemed only a handful of images as unworthy, usually because the SPFX weren't good enough. The images in the book are presented in the same chronological order they were made.
Do you have any advice or perhaps warnings for anyone looking to take up a life of photography?
The digital revolution democratized photography, but laid waste to the industry. When I started out in the 90's I knew millionaire photographers. They are all but extinct now. These days, everyone has a camera in their pocket. It's hard to make a decent living as a photographer in the present world. I do it for love, not money.
Can you share with us what you are working on now or might be doing in the future?
My next project is a full-length Horror movie. It will be an extension of my work as a photographer, shot in the same style. Equal parts scary, and beautiful.
Where can someone go to learn more about you and your art?
My website: www.joshuahoffine.com and/or follow me on Facebook. If anything new happens, I share it there.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, I can’t wait to get your new art book from DRP.