Fashion gets decidedly spooky in the new issue of Garage magazine, via a series of photographs and films by Nick Knight, which are linked to real tales of witchcraft, paganism, and murder...
For the latest issue, Garage encouraged its contributors to get playful with digital, with various features (and the covers, as we previously wrote about) in the print edition containing the potential to be brought to life when accessed via the magazine's app. Knight embraced the challenge, creating a series titled 'Aquelarre', consisting of 14 still images, which when viewed with the app, become films. A number of photographs and films from the series can be viewed below.
Shot in muted tones, with imagery of graves, old buildings and overgrown pathways, the series is in part inspired by a trend for 'neo-paganism' that Knight has observed on the catwalk. "A lot of the collections reflect an interest in paganism, especially with people like Gareth Pugh," he says. The look of the work couldn't be further from the glossy imagery we normally associate with fashion, however, and instead is intended to unnerve, an emotion rarely examined in the industry. "Fashion photography, on the whole, is never meant to scare you, or make you feel unpleasant, or bad about your environment, or so frightened that you have to put the light back on," Knight continues.
Knight was keen to look the relationship between photography and film in the project, and explore what techniques can be used with each to create fear or tension. "I was interested in that crossover, between when a set of moving images become a film, or when they stay as individual photographs," he says.
"So a lot of the technique that I've used is to use still images and then repeat them or have them flicking from one to another very, very fast, to create latent imagery in your mind, and to make you make up stories. For instance, there's one set of pictures which is a girl being dragged into a cornfield by a figure, and flicking from one to the other you get some of that cinematic feeling of tension... I was trying to use those ploys to get across a feeling of anxiety and danger and making people feel scared.... What I wanted to create in the viewer is a feeling of fear or a feeling of being unsettled."
"I've always been frustrated by the lack of emotional power in photography as opposed to film," Knight continues. "Film will reduce us in seconds to tears, I can't, to be truthful, remember ever being reduced to tears by a photograph, unless it's one of the human condition. An awful picture of starving children, that might, but normally it just makes you feel a bit sad and a bit guilty and you move on. Film – even the dullest of films – can quite easily reduce you tears but photography doesn't seem to be capable of doing that. Whether that's because photography works a different set of emotions, so we shouldn't look to it for that, but I don't believe we shouldn't try and make photography, or at least imagery, be that powerful emotionally, so that's what I was trying to do."
Despite the tech wizardry at the heart of the project, Knight chose a deliberately antique look for his images, harking back to the early days of photography. "It's got scratches on the negatives and that feeling of fogged film and definitely a feeling towards the past," he agrees. "I find enjoyment in looking at old daguerreotypes, the range of greys you get quite naturally in old photographs."
To help increase the sense of unease in the work, Knight wanted the project to extend beyond just the mag and app. Working with the artist Rei Nadal on the project, the duo came up with the idea of linking the imagery and films to stories of witchery and death on Wikipedia. "Rei looked through all the films and stories that we'd done and she matched those up to stories that are based in truth and history ... existing legends," says Knight.
These include the stories of Barney and Betty Hill, who were believed to have been briefly abducted by extra-terrestrials in the early 1960s or the Original Night Stalker, a serial killer who murdered at least ten people in the 1970s and 80s. "So once it's already been suggested that things aren't completely pleasant by my films, then these truthful Wikipedia links make you feel even more uncomfortable."
"It's using our imagination as an emotional force to push us to places we wouldn't really go," he continues. "I think that's what fashion photography often lacks. It's far too happy and far too nice, and far too PC and never says anything."
Garage Spring/Summer 2015 is out now, more info is at garagemag.com.