Back in the Summer of 2011, in the complete darkness of the French countryside, I began my first foray into long exposure photography with an ancient praktica camera, a few torches, an old mosquito net, and an old friend of mine who was willing to stand around in the dark (and, as in the image above, in a swimming pool!).
When I was little, we had an encyclopedia of unexplained phenomena on the bookshelf. I don’t know why we had the book. It was the late seventies. It was a big heavy job with a weird pink chameleon on the cover and it was chockful of utterly arresting images of UFOs, ghosts, the charred limbs left behind by luckless victims of spontaneous combustion – and quite a few photographs of naked male and female witches doing arcane stuff while sporting luxurious late seventies pubic hair. I was always looking at this book, in part because it was full of naked witches, but also because I loved all those grainy, poorly-focused photographs of spectral faces looking out of upstairs windows or of seances in which snail-trails of ectoplasm were apparently manifesting out of thin air.
Much to my continuing disappointment, I’ve never seen a ghost, but there’s something inherently spooky about cameras, because they often capture things within the frame that otherwise escape our attention. The image below is a case in point.
I’m almost loathed to tell you how prosaic the original set-up was, but suffice to say it involved the before-mentioned mosquito net, an old parasol, and about thirty seconds of me waving a torch around in a completely dark room while the camera looked on. Hand-on-heart, my mate wasn’t wearing a skull mask under his ad-hoc insect-repelling shroud when this photo was taken, and yet something uncanny crept into this image, some fortuitous alignment of light and shadow conspiring to dial up the horror. Needless to say, I was thrilled.