The second of my performance portrait ideas taps into a fascination with the paranormal. I have never believed in ghosts but I am intrigued by those that do.
The basic idea of my self portrait is for me to assume the role of a medium in a séance, but unlike real séances in my image the ghosts are all visible. The inspiration comes from several sources, the first, which is actually a science fiction book cover, shows the kind of image I want to create. Its from the classic Sci – Fi story by HG Wells, the Time Machine. I remember reading this when I was about 11. The scene is the time travellers escape from the Morlocks, but I like the way the three creatures are all around him. Their bleached bodies looking very ghost like.
A sketch of the idea is shown below but this may not resemble the final image.
The second source of inspiration comes from old Victorian Séance photographs and one of the best is of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer. The image is obviously fake, a fairly simple process of photographing cotton wool wrapped around a picture on a black background and then sandwiching it with the portrait of Sir Arthur the two negatives put together for printing.
If time allows, mimicking this process is something I’d like to try in the darkroom and is a possible direction for this assignment idea, reproducing fake Victorian Ghost pictures, perhaps even to the extent of dressing the same way as Sir Arthur in the picture to complete the mimicry.
If I am going to include more ghosts I will need assistance in the form of models and make up and to this aim I have recruited some actors who helped me last year with the cave man shoot for the Time video.
I gave much thought to the design of the ghosts. The fake images above were considered ‘real’ ghosts when they were first shown but camera technology and manipulation techniques have moved on and I wanted that to be reflected in my ‘modern’ fake image.
The face of my ghosts I also wanted to be ‘non descript’ in that I wanted their features to be recognisable as features (eyes, mouth) but also not as human as in the faces in the Victorian images.
I have discussed my ideas with a make up artist Kat Shircore and she has offered a design to try.
The technique involves wrapping the head of my actor in a stocking, cutting it so most of the actors hair comes free and painting it white. Adding a slightly darker area around the eyes and mouth is all I want to add.
The remainder of the body will be covered in a white long night shirt / dress with strips of tissue paper added on. Hands and feet will also be painted white.
The final effect I want to make similar to the image below taken by a ghost investigator (who goes by the name of Sargel 18) taken in New York state in 2002. ( http://blog.sargel18.com/ )
(c) Sargel 18
The intention is also to suspend my ‘ghosts’ in a harness attached to a rope to give them the same ethereal ‘floating’ effect. This will be carried out in my back garden using a caving harness, karabiners, climbing rope, climbing tether slings, small pulley and a suitable sturdy branch in a tree. The weather forecast unfortunately is wet for the day of the shoot. Guidance on the use of the equipment was obtained from ‘Single Rope Technique – a training manual: Dave Elliot / Cordee Books ISBN 0-904405-68-0
Unfortunately this plan was abandoned due to very wet weather and therefore potential safety issues.