Devan talks to the horror photographer about life, death, family, film, death, and Cthulu.
Joshua Hoffine is what you might call an evil genius with a camera. Born in Kansas and raised in Missouri, the gifted photographer studied English literature at Kansas State before veering off into his chosen profession as a self-described horror photographer. One look at his work is all it will take to chill you to the bone. It’s the stuff of nightmares, drawn from the depths of the darkest corners of the subconscious. From monsters hiding under the bed to creepy clowns to ferocious predators leaving no escape from their evil intentions, Hoffine invites viewers to relive all their childhood fears embodied in meticulously constructed detail. Many of the images are presented from a child’s point of view, capturing their innocence and vulnerability and adding to the creepiness. In some cases this is depicted with the subject seemingly oblivious to the lurking danger while in others the child is obviously and understandably terrified.
“I try to present the images within the visual grammar of a child,” Hoffine explains on his official site. “I want the viewer to share their point of view, to feel their sense of vulnerability. The images stress danger, and depict a world where innocence and safety are under constant threat.”
Hoffine uses friends and family members to create his ghoulish images — including his own young daughters. He’s caught his fair share of flack since entering the limelight for his portrayal of children but that hasn’t stopped him from sharing his vision. For Hoffine real terror lies in what we cannot control as much as in coming to terms with our fragile mortality.
“I believe that the Horror story is ultimately concerned with the imminence and randomness of death, and the implication that there is no certainty to existence,” Hoffine explains. “The experience of horror resides in this confrontation with uncertainty. Horror tells us that our belief in security is delusional, and that the monsters are all around us.”
Hoffine’s work has been shown in galleries all over the world. Last year he hit a new level of success when the internet began taking notice of him, with his work appearing in articles from the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and the Daily News. An active commercial photographer, Hoffine has shot various projects for personal clients, book publishers, record labels, and ad agencies. He’s worked with a diverse client base that includes rapper TechN9ne, Sony, Living Dead Dolls, and Busch Gardens. Despite being very busy dreaming up new nightmares he graciously agreed to an interview with the Escapist.
Devan Sagliani: Where you always into horror growing up or was it something that you became interested in as you got older?
Joshua Hoffine: I’ve always loved Horror. I grew up watching scary movies, and reading Fangoria and Stephen King. But it was only as an adult, when Horror became a subject for my photography, that I began to consider it so seriously.
DS: People often assume horror artists have some dark secrets from their childhood that cause them to be interested in the genre. Were there any big moments that impacted you in this way or influenced your current choice of career?
JH: I had an idyllic childhood in small town America. I had happy loving parents and 2 younger sisters. My father coached my little league baseball team. My mom was a den mother in my cub scouts group. But my parents enjoyed Horror films and allowed me, as well as my sisters, to indulge a love for monsters and the macabre as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
DS: You have an English degree. What types of horror literature most appeal to you and why?
JH: I loved Poe and Lovecraft growing up. As an adult, I really admire Richard Matheson. His concise, primal ideas – his succinct but muscular prose. When I write, I think of Matheson the most.
DS: Have you ever written horror?
JH: Only film treatments so far.
DS: What is your favorite horror movie?
JH: I like all types of Horror, and have favorites in almost every sub-genre. Growing up my 2 favorites were Poltergeist, which I saw in the theater as a little kid with my mom and sisters, and Evil Dead 2, which I watched on VHS at least 30 times before graduating from high school. Favorites from recent years include The Mist, Martyrs, and Cabin In The Woods.
DS: What is your favorite type of monster?
JH: Karloff’s Frankenstein is great. Max Schreck as Nosferatu might be my favorite monster.
DS: What scares you?
JH: Anything happening to my wife or kids.
DS: What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you in real life?
JH: Nothing dangerous or tragic has ever happened to me. One night my eldest daughter didn’t come home when she was supposed to. She had fallen asleep and was not answering her phone. I freaked out a little bit. My brain can be paranoid with concern when it comes to my kids.
DS: What do you think happens when we die?
JH: Only Cthulu knows for certain. Where are you when you are between 2 thoughts? I imagine death as something like that.
DS: I’ve read that you’ve gotten your fair share of hate mail since you started your career as a horror photographer. What are some of the worst things people have said to you about your work?
JH: They were all concerned with issues of child abuse. Not a few of them regarded my work as pornographic.
DS: What kinds of unexpected surprises have come up surrounding your work?
JH: How many people enjoy it.
DS: As an artist it’s always exciting to learn that people you admire are into your work. Have any of your favorite actors, authors, artists, or celebrities contacted you? What’s the most flattering experience you’ve had?
JH: The Russo brothers – Joe and Anthony, the men behind Captain America 2 – contacted me not long ago to talk about my work. That call blew my mind the most.
DS: You have a new short film BLACK LULLABY that you’re screening right now. The Kickstarter page says it’s about a young girl confronting the boogeyman and that it grew out of your horror shoots with your daughters. Tell us more about it.
JH: The film is the climax to my photo series dealing with childhood fears. The premise is simple – it’s about a young girl whose curiosity outweighs her fear, to tragic results. There is not a word of dialogue, and like many of my photos, it features my daughter Chloe – who is genuinely amazing in the film. As soon as all the DVD’s are delivered to Kickstarter supporters, we will have a website dedicated to viewing and downloading the film online, as well as a schedule of film festival screenings.
DS: Your work is so engaging and powerful that people often think it’s all you do, forgetting that you are still a freelance photographer for hire. Recently Sony UK hired you to do a series called Monster Prom that got you featured in Fangoria. Tell us more about it the experience.
JH: That was a great experience! Sony UK commissioned an original photo project utilizing their new Sony A7 camera. I pitched the idea of shooting fake prom photos of famous monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman as awkward teenagers. I recruited my daughter Arinna and her friends to play the teenagers, and hired J. Anthony Kosar to create the monsters for me. Although the project featured kids and monsters – just like my Horror work – it was meant to be funny and playful. The best part was getting to fly over to London and give a presentation on the camera!
DS: Who were some of your favorite people to work with?
JH: My actors and crew are usually drawn from friends and family, so I’m always working with my favorite people. The most talented person I’ve managed to pull into my work is J. Anthony Kosar. His make-up and sculpting abilities have no limits.
DS: What’s next?
JH: My slate is full with projects in development. I’m writing a movie, developing a TV show idea, putting together some new Horror photo ideas, and creating what may be the greatest calendar of all time.
DS: Anything else you’d like to pitch?
JH: I am part of a group show opening at the Polyester Gallery in Amsterdam on Nov 7th called Shocked and Amazed.
You can see more of Joshua Hoffine’s work at his official site.