A Ghost in the Frame
By Nadezhda Pavlova
„When I see ghosts they look perfectly real and solid – like a living human being. They are not misty; I can’t see through them; they don’t wear sheets or bloody mummy bandages. They don’t have their heads tucked under their arms. They just look like ordinary people, in living color, and sometimes it is hard to tell who is a ghost”. – that’s what the American writer Chris Woodyard said in one of her interviews.
And if your task as a photographer is to shoot “The Haunted House”, then planning, researching, recognizing and shooting this supernatural phenomena turns into an unexpected challenge. Their creation and documenting can become even a greater challenge if you are a part of a workshop called “Documenting fiction”.
In the period 19-22 June 2014,in the town of Mussoorie, India, a Workshop called “Shooting, Editing and Photo-book making with Cristina de Middel and Riccardo Cases” was held, organised by EMAHO Magazine and IED Madrid.
The group was accommodated in a residence called „Devdar Woods”,an old British villa, which is situated two thousand meters above sea level, amongst mist and twenty meters tall pine trees.The rooms with their 4-meters tall walls, windows placed right under the wooden ceilings, mirrors, covered by old mystic tarnish, reflecting one’s image beyond recognition, mysterious wardrobes with creaking hinges and the grinding sounds of cabinets and cupboards, sofas and armchairs from ages ago, that used to comfort the tired bodies of strangers, huge beds upholstered with old-fashioned fabrics, housed us and other suddenly appearing creatures.
The first day Cristina jokingly hinted that for the shooting process we would not need to go far away from the villa in which we were staying. For all of us this sounded strange, as we are used to always look for the “good” picture far away and in motion.
She shared with us that she finds the ghost topic very suitable having in mind the environment we were in. After a discussion with her that lasted a few hours we outlined the elements and backgrounds which any decent “ghost house” should have. The horror genre fans were of great use. I found out why men like horror movies…
The enormous bugs, shaking pictures, flying forks and spoons, creatures with horns, chairs climbing towards the ceiling, windows with eyes, shadows going through walls, ghosts coming out of fireplaces, cloths crawling around, mysteriously swinging ropes and fires became our co-residents in the following days. The fact that we were working together creating a photobook generated ideas, which were upgraded in the shooting process.We did not lack models. We got images that were surprising as vision and provocative as content.
Just imagine a house in which a golden ghost in running towards you and is getting guidance how fast to do it, where you have to jump over photographers lying on the floor, while a white ghost-like creature is asking them whether it is well stuck to the wall.Rooms booming with flashes, facilities built up for a certain scene, photo shoots in wardrobes and creaking doors … and ghosts all over the place.
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win” wroteStephen King. And this victory of theirs is not always scary. Discovering them and documenting their presence is a rather delicate job.It requires patience, understanding, acceptance. You know, they don’t always look good; sometimes they are even horrifying, like the unknown. But if we overcome our fears and realize they are dictated by our ignorance we could be of use to each other. To be able to set footsteps in both worlds at the same time – the worlds of reality and fiction. And each photographic document which registered our inner fears can be taken as our credo.It will be not so much the proof for their existence, but for our acceptance and ability to live with them.
In the process editing, together with Cristina de Middel we selected 62 photos out of the thousands we took in the those days.
„Shoot an idea and make a story based on the photos already made;Often good photos do not make it to the book, and at first glance simple ones do;Do not be afraid to make mistakes and to make “stupid” photos;Chase the good shoot until it works out well; Look for the “beautiful ugliness” – these phrases were part of the advices we got from her. Each one of us made a unique cover of our books and we placed the photos inside. We became witnesses of how the true artist works on the dummy book, creating an object with unique content.In the book she also included artefacts, found by the participants during the shooting, business cards with texts, as well as her own pictures on the pages.
„Books are a uniquely portable magic”Stephen King wrote. I came home with this magic, as big as a human palm, bound in an Indian newspaper and titled “Manic”, still smelling of glue, with roughly cut edges and smudged photos. I came home … different.
Translated by Vesselina Marinova
VIDEO: Emaho Mussoorie Workshop with Cristina de Middel & Ricardo Cases in collaboration with IED Madrid