INTERVIEW: JOSHUA HOFFINE
The notorious and acclaimed horror photography by Joshua Hoffine can now reside in your cold dead hands as a BEAUTIFUL new book of his work has been published by DARK REGIONS PRESS. FEAR FOREVER spoke with the artist about his inspirations, lengthy career, advice for novice photographers and of course, his new book.
FEAR FOREVER (FF): What is your earliest memory of the macabre becoming part of your life?
JOSHUA HOFFINE (JH): I’ve loved Horror for as long as I can remember. My early drawings from
preschool are all monsters. Sesame Street – with it’s affinity for monsters – was a gateway drug that led to SCOOBY-DOO and GODZILLA movies. My parents liked Horror films, so they were cool with my macabre streak. I was raised in an environment where Horror movies were considered family entertainment.
FF: What were the influences that you developed at a young age that have helped to shape the aesthetic you have now?
JH: In grade school we were shown the 1953 version of THE TELL-TALE HEART narrated by James Mason, and the final Night on Bald Mountain sequence from FANTASIA. Both utterly blew my mind. This is the 80’s, before VHS, before cable, which means I got to view them only once. But they were tattooed onto my brain. I spent years drawing and redrawing the old man with his evil eye, and skeleton ghosts riding horseback.
FF: What made you decide to make horror photography your main artistic focus?
JH: I had been working as a photographer for a few years when it struck me that there was no Horror photography. There are Horror movies, novels, comics, and video games – but no Horror photographs. I saw wide vistas of
unexplored possibility. Horror quickly became my focus and I never looked back.
FF: Can you walk us through your process: from idea/concept to print?
JH: Ideas tend to come to me fully-formed. I write a short description of the photograph I’m going to make. I think of it as a script. If there are make-up artists involved, or a Kickstarter campaign, I will draw a sketch to better convey what I’m going for. The bulk of my time is spent preparing. I have to find the location, or design and build a set, and
find or make all the props and costumes. I almost always use friends and family members as actors and crew. I shoot everything live in front of the camera. A photo-shoot can last for hours and hours, with most of the time spent on lighting and make-up. Once the shooting is complete, I carefully go through my footage (I shoot a lot) to find the best frame. I’ll polish my best frame in Photoshop – tweaking color and contrast, and fixing any flaws I find. Sometimes, for reasons of safety or budget, I have to shoot an element separately and combine it with the main image in Photoshop. I make prints at home using Museo Silver Rag – which is a heavyweight museum paper.
FF: What is your favorite camera to shoot with?
JH: These days, a Canon 5D Mark III
FF: Have you ever thought of shooting a film?
JH: I’ve made one, so far. I finished my first short Horror film BLACK LULLABY in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The 4 minute film features a little girl and her confrontation with the Boogeyman. The
film stars my daughter Chloe Hoffine and regular model Bob Barber as the Boogeyman, and was meant to be the climax to my photo series dealing with childhood fears. You can find it on Vimeo.
FF: Do you think things like iPhones and Instagram are good or bad for photography as an art and photographers as a profession?
JH: Great for the art, terrible for the industry. I started out before the digital revolution. Photography was difficult and took years to master. People hired professionals. Now that everybody has a camera in their pocket, with apps and filters replacing difficult darkroom work, the demand for professional photography has diminished.
FF: What are your thoughts on the old superstition that a camera steals the soul?
JH: The camera may capture your likeness, but your soul is safe.
FF: What are your biggest pet peeves about photography and photographers today?
FF: What is a simple trick or piece of advice you can give to amateur photographers to be able to take a better photo?
JH: Learn to use natural light. When shooting portraits outdoors, soft overcast skies are your best friend.
FF: You have been at this for a long time and are one of the best known horror photographers, actually one of the best known photographers in general! Now, you are putting your years of work into one collection. How did this idea for the book come about?
JH:It was actually my hope from the very beginning to someday publish my Horror photos as a book. Although I never expected it to take so long to create enough work. Because of the labor and expense involved, I was rarely able to create more than 3 or 4 new images a year.
FF: How did you choose which images went into the book?
JH: Virtually every Horror image I’ve made ended up in the book.
FF: How did you get hooked up with the publisher of your book, DARK REGIONS PRESS?
JH: They contacted me a few years ago about doing it. Finally, the time was right for both of us. This is their first coffee table art book. It was an arduous learning experience but we’re both happy with the way it came out.
FF: Like your photography, your book is uniquely you and is a piece of art in and of itself. It isn’t the most cost effective or easy route to put out an oversized 12 x 12 hardcover book, why did you feel that this design best presented your work to fans old and new?
JH: I believe the size was my suggestion. There is a lot of detail that can be missed if the photos aren’t large enough. The book even includes numerous ‘detail pages’ that zoom in on an image so certain details are highlighted.
FF: The book also includes a very rare and personal glimpse into what happens behind the scenes and you personally give your own commentary on your work. Did you find it hard or intimidating to speak for your art for the first time, since your art regularly does the talking?
JH: Actually, that part wasn’t too hard. I graduated from college with a degree in English Lit, and I have lectured about my photos, and my philosophical understanding of the Horror genre, many times. It was mostly about keeping my thoughts as succinct as possible.
FF: Is there anything else you want readers to know about you, your book,
or any future projects you have?
JH: With my book now complete, my next project is going to be a full-length
Horror movie. It’s called NIGHT OF THE HATCHET MAN. It’s intense, and
every frame will look like my photographs. People won’t know what hit ’em.
Joshua Hoffine’s book is available for purchase as a case laminate Trade Hardcover for $60, or a limited edition signed and numbered leather Deluxe Hardcover with dust jacket and linen slipcase for $150 (Edition of 300).