April A. Taylor is a Dark Art & Fine Art photographer from Detroit, MI. Some of her earliest childhood memories involve Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, the original Nightmare on Elm Street movies and reading Clive Barker’s Books of Blood series, all of which she credits with introducing her at a young age to her first love – horror. After 2 decades of dabbling in photography, her 2nd love, she made the decision in 2007 to focus seriously on developing (no pun intended) her photography career. In 2009 she designed her first Illustrative Dark Art Photography shoot (The Post-Apocalyptic Princess, pictured to the left) and was instantly taken with the idea of capturing the darkness of the world through vividly horrific scenes.
We were able to spend a few minutes with her and this interview was the result.
Hellnotes: How long have you been a professional Horror/Dark Art photographer and how did you get started in the industry?
Taylor: I have been actively interested in photography, and horror, since a very young age but it wasn’t until 2007 that I began focusing very seriously on photography. I started with Fine Art photography but found that each of my pieces, most of which were taken of abandoned buildings and ghost towns around the USA, had a very dark feel to them. In 2009 I photographed my first Dark Art illustrative set (The Post-Apocalyptic Princess) and in 2010, the year that I became a full-time professional photographer, I took the Dark Art into a more truly horror based direction. Since 2010 my Dark Art/Horror & Fine Art pieces have been published & exhibited internationally in over 50 different places and I have been fortunate enough to appear as an artist guest at multiple genre conventions.
Hellnotes: Do you have a team of people behind the shoots (makeup artists, wardrobe, etc.) or is it more of a do it yourself setup?
Taylor: It’s definitely very DIY. The majority of the wardrobe and props are provided by me or the models and what we don’t have on hand we typically get from thrift stores. As to the makeup, I handle the majority of the application of the horror/gore makeup and appliances, whereas the models take care of the more traditional makeup and hair styling.
Hellnotes: Which shoot has been the most challenging?
Taylor: Based purely on the amount of prep time that was involved I’d have to say She’s Dead (image to the left) was the most challenging. It took about three hours to get the model (Shannon Waite, whose poem entitled She’s Dead was the basis for the shoot) properly covered with saran wrap and to apply the makeup necessary to make her flesh look frozen and dead. Shooting a tall model lying inside of a chest freezer was also a bit of a logistical nightmare, but the set is a fan favorite and was definitely enjoyable to do, regardless of the challenges it presented.
Hellnotes: How do you come up with the concepts behind the shoots?
Taylor: Each of the shoots to date, with the exception of The Bog Hag, have had some basis in the typical roots of horror (zombies, axe murderers, etc.), however I will not shoot a set unless I think I have something new to say on the topic. Each horror set has a richly developed back story and makes a societal commentary. For the majority of them, though, I have not publicly stated what that commentary is. I want the viewers to be able to decide for themselves what they see in, and will take from, each of my pieces.
Hellnotes: Most of your work is characterized by very vivid colors. What made you decide to do this? Do the colors represent anything?
Taylor: Most Horror/Dark Art photographers choose to make their majority of their images very stark in order to bring out the horror element. I have opted to go in the exact opposite direction with many of pieces by infusing them with very vivid colors and a bit of a 1970’s feel. The intention behind this is to make the images feel more real to the viewer and, based on some of the controversy behind the set entitled Mine, I’d say that it seems to work.
Hellnotes: Tell us a bit about Mine and the controversy you just mentioned?
Taylor: Mine is a horror set that depicts a male axe murder stalking and killing an innocent woman in the woods. On that basis alone, without looking beneath the surface of the shoot, my work was dubbed as “ultra violent,” “too controversial” and as “glorifying violence” by several art websites, none of which asked any questions about the meaning behind the set. Mine depicts a man who has lost his wife to horrible violence and his mind snaps. It is a social commentary on the very real issue of violence in the world and looks at the psychology behind such violence. Interestingly enough, many of the sites that were upset by the images were concerned about how their female viewers would react to it but the vast majority of positive comments on that set have come from female fans.
Hellnotes: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Taylor: I always have several shoots in pre-production, including three sequels to previous fan favorites, however I don’t typically give many details about them in advance. As to publications, two of my photographs will be included in the upcoming horror anthology What Fears Become (featuring authors such as Ramsey Campbell & Piers Anthony). Some of my work will also be featured in an upcoming short horror film entitled CathARTic, which will be screened at the 2011 Viscera Film Festival.
Hellnotes: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Taylor: I invite them to please visit my website (April A. Taylor) to see more samples of my work and become a fan on Facebook for sneak peaks at shoots! Thank you!