With shoot 1 in this assignment image composite done, I selected the best poses from shoot 1 to repeat in shoot 2 but this time with added ghosts. By that I mean adding in two people dressed up and made up to look like ghosts, Sabina Jackson and Antony Elmes. Assisting me on the shoot was make up artist and photographer Alex Saunders and shoot assistant James Hyde. My original inspiration image, the front cover of the book ‘The Time Machine’, was still the overall look I wanted to achieve but obviously changing the ‘Morlocks’ for ghostly spectres.
To create the ghost look I wanted to blur the features of my cast, making them look humanoid instead of human. To achieve this I purchased some white ladies tights and persuaded my cast to stretch the tights (one leg) over their heads. By adding in some grey face makeup around the eyes and mouth my ghosts were starting to appear. I dressed the cast in a full length white cotton ladies underskirt (similar to a cotton full length night dress) and a loose fitting white t shirt as the neck line on the dress revealed too much chest…. To add to the effect I added bandages around the neck and arms which helped to conceal the clothing edges. Their legs and feet were not going to be in the photo so no make up was applied there.
Inspiration for the look of my ghosts came from many sources, including several movies as the genre has been topical for decades, but the closest match to what I wanted to create came not from a ghost story movie but from the film ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, the sequence when the Ark is opened. The full movie sequence link is below
I extracted some frames from the sequence which became my template for the make up design. I particularly liked the way the ghosts moved in the movie sequence, the essence of which I also wanted to capture in my still image.
This would also link with the Cindy Sherman influence in that my image would take the appearance of a movie still. Below one of the two ghosts has been made up with the ‘white’ ladies tights face mask and costume. The set for the shoot, black backdrop and a dark room was created in my living room. Light sources were the main room light (60watt bulb) and an angle poise desk lamp (40 watt bulb). All images of the ‘ghosts’ were shot at ISO400 f 7.1 to f 16 and generally at around 1/2 second exposure or less to blur their shape. The Nikon D800 camera was mounted on a tripod. A 24 – 120mm Nikon Lens was used.
Each ghost was asked to sway gently during the timed exposure to give the ghostly blur which would also aid in separating me from them in the post shoot processing. I therefore had to remain very still during the exposure to remain sharp. This was difficult with one ghost pulling on my shoulder and one with her hand on my head.
I shot the ghosts in several ways which included, lying across chairs, climbing over chairs, jumping off chairs, climbing over me and dropping to the floor during an exposure. As they were all shot against a dark background, cutting the figure away from the background was very easy.
The main shot selected was the one below. This would form the base photo to which other views of the two ghosts would be added to make a crowd of ghosts.
Through a process of cutting and pasting the image was slowly assembled. To make the main two ghost figures more transparent I duplicated the above photo in Photo Shop, added a Gaussian blur filter to it then erased the area containing myself so the sharp image would show through.
I repeated the same process with a uniform black layer placed between the top ‘blurred’ ghosts and the lower sharp image of myself so I could adjust the transparency of the blurred layer. Reducing this to 20 – 30 % made the ghosts fade and merge into the backdrop adding to their ethereal look. The appearance I wanted to create is similar to the stage effect used with glass where light shone on the actor is reflected onto glass on the stage. By lowering the intensity of the light the actor fades away into the darkness.
http://www.theatrecrafts.com/glossary/pages/peppersghost.html : accessed 2014
The poses for my two main actors were based on the account of profession TV Medium Marion Goodfellow. She has been involved with many Ghostly TV series including, The Ghost Detectives – Lion TV / UK Horizons 2001, Most Haunted – Reality TV 2007, Northern Irelands Greatest Haunts – Really Channel 2009, and I contacted her and spoke to her about her impressions of what was happening to her when she made ‘contact’ with the ghosts and spirits in a haunted building. Her description was of lots of spirits crowding around her all trying to speak to her, sometimes in competition with each other. More detail about this was in her co presenters book Andy Matthews Greatest Haunts: Andy Matthews – Foulsham 2010 ISBN 978-0-572-03543-3
Additional research was also found on the subject in the following books
Haunted Hertfordshire : Ruth Stratton and Nicholas Connell – The Book Castle 2006 ISBN 1-903747-71-6
Haunted Bedfordshire : William H King – The Book Castle 2005 ISBN 1-903747-63-5
The Ghost Detectives TV Series : Lion TV / UK Horizons 2001 (Now released on DVD by Demand DVD / West Cannon Media)
Final Image: Whispers in the Darkness
The image pays homage to the Victorian and Edwardian spiritualist mediums and the ‘faked‘ ghost images meant to represent the thoughts and feelings experienced by a Medium as they make contact with the dead. Created also with influence from generations of ‘Horror Movies’ this movie poster style image continues the 118 year old legacy started by Georges Melies, film – Le Manoir Du Diable (1896, Fr.) (aka The Devil’s Castle/The Haunted Castle) of faking ghosts to frighten and entertain.