Sometimes it is better not to know how something was achieved. For example, if I were to tell you how the ad-hoc apparatus used to produce this particular image was fashioned together from slats of wood, pound-shop torches, lots of black gaffer tape and a ratty length of blue nylon rope, some of its otherworldly allure may fade. Indeed, no one was more surprised than I when these unpromising constituents gave rise to this electrical feathered thing swooping through the darkness of rural France.
Another all-nighter in an old grand house, and this time in rooms even more cavernous and derelict than previously, instructing waves of spectral light to rise from dusty floors.
Lately, there has been an outbreak of portals here at Red’s Kingdom – the sudden appearance of doorways to other realms. The same was true back in the Summer of 2016, when I was witness to some equally extraordinary sights manifesting in the forlorn empty rooms of an old sprawling house somewhere in the Medway Towns. This is but one of the many photographs taken during that long sleepless night, where wide-eyed and watchful amongst the cobwebs, peeling paint and prodigious heaps of pigeon shit, I conjured impossibilities out of the dark.
I know, I know. There’s been a whole world of grass-themed posts on here over the last few weeks. Blame the good weather. Blame the lock-down. Blame the Kent countryside. Blame Monet’s and his fetish for haystacks. In my defence, this particular grass was snapped all the way back in the late Summer of 2014 and eschews pastoral impressionism for something markedly more extraterrestrial.
Bringing about these images was a typically lo-fi affair: some lovely slow slide film, an old 35mm camera, a few garden lights with coloured gels held in place with elastic bands, and between ten and twenty minute exposures. The photographs were taken up in the meadow at the old French House, where once again I was making the very most out of the warm still nights and complete absence of light pollution.
Memorably, it was while taking these photographs that I encountered a very large Alsatian dog, that loped silently out of the darkness of the nearby wood to eyeball me with baleful intent. It was all a little bit too Red Riding Hood for comfort. To my credit, I stood my ground and instructed the Alsatian to fuck off – which it did. The short walk back to the house I managed on jellied legs. I wanted to take more photographs. These are okay. They’re beginning to do nice things, but strictly between you and me, I’d completely lost my nerve!
It’s late July 2017 and I’ve just locked myself inside a very big, very old dark house somewhere in the Medway Towns. The house number is 351. I will spend the night alone at number 351 in the hope of capturing phantasmagoria on film. Fortunately, the old dark house doesn’t disappoint…
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.