Inside the mind of Joshua HoffineMikey 17 comments
This cold rainy evening was spent trying to locate my Evil Dead DVD which I now believe to be lost forever, or lent to a forgotten friend. So I went to my computer in a vain attempt to put the loss out of my mind, and almost as if it were the Necronomicon itself taunting me, I found it creepy that I should see an email from Joshua Hoffine pining for attention at the top of my inbox. No chance of getting the Evil Dead out of my mind now.
Joshua Hoffine's horrific compositions (I mean that in a good way) are inspired by horror films, stories and his own personal childhood fears. Last week we asked you to let us know what you would like to ask Joshua (a big Kudos to everyone who participated), and we put the most interesting questions forward for some honest responses. A special Thanks to Joshua for indulging us during his busy schedule. Be sure to hit the links at the end of the interview.
Dare I ask, but what's your inspiration?
My children, my own childhood memories, horror films, Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark, and classic fairy tales.
Who are your influences and mentors (if any)?
Nick Vedros is an advertising photographer in Kansas City. He is the biggest photographer in the region. I interned with him for 6 months as a young photographer. He would sometimes shoot enormous productions, with elaborate sets and props, and intricate lighting schemes. He was an old-school pre-photoshop technical genius. Much of what I do today was learned while working for Nick.
Rich Grosko was my most important mentor. He, in fact, had once mentored Nick. Rich Grosko was the youngest staff photographer LIFE Magazine ever hired. Rich Grosko was bigger than life. He had done everything and been everywhere as a photographer. Winston Churchill sent him Christmas cards. And whereas Nick told me to tame my work down, Rich encouraged me to go further and crazier. He was always behind me. He taught me how to survive as a photographer. Rich believed in me when nobody else could.
Beyond personal influences, Mario Bava is my patron saint. Cinematographer, special effects artist, matte painter, model maker, super grip, writer & director - he has inspired me visually, as well as in his guerilla one-man-can-do-it-all approach.
Are any of your compositions a reflection of your own childhood imagination?
Absolutely. In one way or another, they all do. While the images are meant to be iconic and universal, they are stitched with details from my own personal life. I use my own children as models, and the props and wall art in the background often come from my own childhood.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in a niche photography field? What are the pros and cons?
First, a Rich Grosko Axiom: Learn to separate what you do for love from what you do for money. Always continue to work on what you love, and say yes to anything for money. I have shot weddings, portraits, proms, corporate events, baby pictures, senior portraits, nudes, pet pictures, insurance documentation, food, architecture, fashion, CD covers, band portraits, head shots, hair shows, car shows, concerts, advertisements, catalogues, flowers, landscapes, arial photography, kids with Santa Claus, little league sports - man, you name it, I've shot it. And I would take the money and spend it on personal work - the work I love.
Rich Grosko Axion #2: There is a market for everything. Don't let concerns over what is or isn't marketable control your work. If you love the image, someone else will too.
And finally, a Nick Vedros Axiom: They only know you for what you show. If there is something you want to be known for, make sure that's what you're putting out into the world.
Do you think your work would be any less effective with photoshop?
It is easier, and more enjoyable, for me to set up my photo shoots in the real world. I enjoy dressing sets and painting props. I love to apply make-up. I really have no idea how to do this through digital artistry. I was a photographer for years before the digital revolution, so this is how I learned to do things.
The issue I have with photoshop collages is often how flat they are. If each element is photographed in focus, then the resulting image has no sense of depth. Sometimes light sources are incongruent, which is also distracting to me. Great photoshop work dazzles me though. Mark Holthusen's work for Kohler is jaw dropping.
From your experience is it possible to earn decent money from selling art online?
I've only been doing it for a month, but I don't think I can expect to live off of it any time soon.
How hard (or easy) was the decision to involve your own child?
At first, it was a natural decision. I had been a photographer for several years before my work turned into full-blown horror. And my models had always been family members: my sister Becky, my sister-in-law Mikal, and most of all, my first daughter Arinna.
Later, it seemed natural to use my other daughters in my new work. Their mother, my wife at the time, was supportive at first. But gradually she began to object as our daughters became increasingly morbid. They started making horror drawings that completely freaked out their teachers at school. I had to address these issues as they came up. But I always made sure that my girls were psychologically safe and having fun while working with me, and that they saw the whole thing as a kind of dress up game. I gave them a sense of participation and co-authorship. The problem is that we've had too much fun doing something that is, at least a little bit, morally reprehensible.
Have you encountered any negative feedback from concerned parents, religious groups, or even family - and if so how have you handled them?
While I often have to assure strangers that nobody was harmed in the production of my photographs, and that the girls are alright - nobody has ever openly objected to my work. In person, I have a soothing presence and am quick to make people laugh. I am often charming and clearly harmless. I shot over 200 weddings before I made my first horror image. My first concern has always been for my subject's comfort. People feel safe around me. And those that know me see how amazing my kids are. So I don't worry about it.
Violence is a theme in your images. What is your opinion on violence in movies, video games and other mediums on youth today?
I love violent and gory movies, but I don't let my kids watch them. Violence is not going away. So, violent art is not going away. I never want to see any real censorship in art. Warning labels are enough. Enjoying violent art does not make you a violent person. That is a myth. Violent people enjoy violent movies. That is true.
What are some of your favorite movies, books?
I worship many movies, including THE SHINING, MAGNOLIA, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, POLTERGEIST, and EVIL DEAD 2.
I've recently been re-obsessed with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which has to be one of the best 3 movies ever made. I don't think there's ever been a movie I liked better.
I love the poet W.S. Merwin, old Alan Moore comic books, especially THE WATCHMEN, and anything by Kurt Vonnegut. I've recently been reading books on the epistemology, or philosophy, of Horror:
THE HORROR FILM by Peter Hutchings, THE HORROR GENRE by Paul Wells, THE HORROR FILM by Stephen Prince. I also study physics and cosmology as a hobby. I love THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE by Brian Greene.
If you could choose any person (people) dead or alive for one of your compositions, who would they be and in what setting?
Actually, I have a side project based on pre-existing Icons. I produced the first one UNCLE SAM this April and sold it to a rapper to use in their CD. There is a crime scene, shrouded in fog, where the police, a detective, and a forensics expert are hovering over the dead body of Uncle Sam, found discarded in the winter woods. Who killed America?
I have a whole series of ideas along this vein. Medusa, ronald mcdonald, narcissus, bluebeard, vlad the impaler, icarus, joan of arc, etc.
The image for JOAN OF ARC is set in a strip club. There is a stage with a stripper's pole. Joan of Arc, in her white tunic and shaven head is tied to the strippers pole, with a mound of wood kindling at her feet. She is lit by a spotlight. Also in the spotlight is a barker in a red velvet tuxedo, a greasy black pompadour and Ron Jeremy moustache, yelling into an old megaphone. He is holding aloft a burning torch, getting ready to set fire to the wood at her feet. You can see the silhouettes of the patrons sitting at tables in the foreground, waitresses wearing bunny ears.
What do you get when you cross Sam Raimi and Stephen King?
Carrie White fighting the Evil Dead with a telekinetic chainsaw.
Is there a big picture (pun intended) for Joshua? What can we look forward to in the future?
I am beginning pre-production on the second half of AFTER DARK, MY SWEET. I've written 13 new images. When they are all complete, I hope to publish them as a book.
I am in post-production on my first short horror film BLACK LULLABY. It is a moving version of AFTER DARK, MY SWEET. I hope to finish it in time for an early 2009 online release.
My follow-up photography projects are already written as well. The next is called THE GRAND GUIGNOL, and after that THE CULTURE OF FEAR. These 2 project are designed to go with AFTER DARK, MY SWEET so that they will complete one giant thesis. I have also written a movie called FERAL that I hope will be the climax to the project.