Photography Thoughts

Spooky Season musings #1

Over a decade ago, I used to be a freelance photographer, specialising in event photography.

Back then (let’s face it, ever since I was old enough to form conscious thought…) I was still drawn to the dark side: the spooky, the odd, the quirky and the macabre.

Now another Halloween season is upon us, and it gives me as good an excuse as any to go back through my photo archives and reminisce about a period of my life that almost seems an aeon ago…

This one dates from 2012, and is from the period in my life when, every August, I threw myself into the tumultuous ocean of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a concrete block chained to my ankles.

I loved it: for that month, I photographed, reviewed, attended and forgot a multitude of performances big and small. I met some fascinating people, experienced some unforgettable things and — for a period of about 5 years — was almost as regular a fixture of the Edinburgh Festival as the Royal Military Tattoo…

This shot was from the Royal Mile, one of the cast of a student production of Dracula that focused on Mina Harker and the other ‘brides’ … they were, I recall, always in character and always drew a crowd.

Like many of the photos of performers I took back then I often wonder what they’re up to now. Whether they’re still in the arts, whether they’ve followed different paths, whether they look back on this period of their lives as fondly as I do.

Wherever (and whatever) they are, I hope they’re happy.

Even further back now, there was a period of my working life where I regularly visited Hong Kong. Officially there in a work capacity, I always took the opportunity to go off the beaten track (and away from the ex-pat culture) as often as I could.

This photo is from one of those excursions, when I was on the island the week before Halloween. There’s a theme park in Hong Kong called Ocean Park, there long before the more recently established Hong Kong Disneyland. It seems more popular with locals and natives than the HK House of Mouse, and when I went there one evening it felt like I was the only European visitor there.

And it was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Everyone was, I remember, absolutely up for rhe spooky celebrations and events the park put on for the season, and the majority of them were there in fancy dress and other amazingly intricate outfits. At first I felt like an interloper at a private party, but within minutes of arriving everyone there was smiling, waving and welcoming me to join the fun.

So join it I did. This photo was from a walkthrough attraction in the park where the performers were dressed as ghosts, zombies and spirits from Chinese folklore.

It, like the majority of my Hong Kong days and nights, was terrifyingly good…

Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood is a fascinating place to visit no matter what age you are. Featuring exhibits of toys and games from centuries ago right up to the recent past, you’re practically guaranteed to spot something, point at it and exclaim “I had one of those!”

One of the areas is the Doll Gallery.

I remember being taken there by my mum when I was very young.

And I remember being terrified.

I am convinced the Doll Gallery of Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood gave me a lifelong fear of dolls, clowns and uncanny valley automata of all kinds.

I returned there, maybe a decade ago, with camera in hand and an intent to photograph as many of the ‘charming’ exhibits as possible. I remember it being a cold and grey autumn morning, and I remember the museum being quiet and dimly lit.

And I remember being terrified.

No matter what I do or try, I think I always will be terrified of the Doll Gallery.

And I, deep down, will always love it.

(So much so it features as a location in A Red Red Rose, my modern-day scenario for Call of Cthulhu available here.)

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