There are people who love Halloween. Then there are people who LOVE Halloween. Like, really, really LOVE Halloween.
Brooklyn-based photographer Krys Fox is one of the latter. To show how much he loves the witching season, Krys has just completed the mammoth feat of of shooting 31 different photos shoots in 31 days—one for each day of October—with each shoot based around one of his favourtie horror movies. Now THAT is dedication to the Halloween spirit! I sent Krys some questions to find out what had inspired him to undertake this epic task, why invert the gender roles in the photos, and what got him in to photography in the first place…
THE NIALLIST: So, how are you handling Hurricane Sandy? That seems like a real horror movie. Has it affected your shoots?
KRYS FOX: Hurricane Sandy scared me last night. It got violent out there. Our building in Brooklyn was shaking and swaying. It sounded like a monster was out there in the wind. Very much like a scary movie. Luckily, we didn’t lose power. Just internet and cable… and I own a LOT of movies so we just had a movie marathon. Halloween, The Mist, Hide & Seek and Sleepy Hollow were our films… As far as my shoots go, I shot four on my last day, I finished the last shot for the series at 9pm on Saturday night. The subways and buses were already shut down by then (and still are) so, I walked a half an hour back home (with all my props, equipment and camera on me) while Sandy started getting windy. It was a bit freaky, but also pretty cool. It was eerie outside and fun to be in it before it got too serious. So, I lucked out. If the storm had started a day earlier, I wouldn’t have finished this epic project.
TN: What was the inspiration for the 31 Days of Halloween project?
KF: I’ve always been inspired by horror films. Even bad ones usually are creative. They utilize a pretty strong production value (usually) with a less impressive budget. Often they have unique lighting and camera angles and push my mind to think in a different box. And every year, around this time, for the last seven years or so, I think, ” I wanna shoot a horror series this year!” But once I wrap my mind around what that would entail, I get nervous and decide against it. This year, when the thought entered my mind, I was in need of a new challenge. I seem to get depressed or hollow after I accomplish something. I was just getting back from my first exhibition in the UK and it went so well and was such a big deal to me, that I felt a sort of postpartum effect after. I was homesick for the people in the UK and felt stagnant. When the idea resurfaced, I conceptualized a way to make it a little more “me”. A way to shoot these movies that read that they were homages but not literal. I decided to switch all the genders of the characters I would recreate. Making the guys “the whores” “victims” and “virgins” and let ladies take the iconic killer roles. Sort of a feminist slant on the films I love. I got more excited than scared and just jumped into the project headfirst without letting the scope of it enter my mind.
TN: It seems like A LOT of work. Did you ever think you had bitten off more than you could chew? Were there any moments when you had to have a drastic re-think?
KF: Oh my God. Yes. So so so much work. I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew EVERY DAY. And things needed to be tweeked or completely redone every single shoot. I ended up shooting 36 films in 23 days. Alone.
I conceptualized, story boarded, location scouted, cast, and scheduled every shoot. Then shot every film one-on-one with no assistants (except Night of the Living Dead Day where we had a zombie assembly team), and THEN edited, posted and dealt with interweb madness after. I tried to work ahead of schedule, but shit happens, and most shoots were posted the following day. The turn around ALONE almost killed me. That doesn’t even speak to little things like costuming, makeup, blood detail and problems with scheduling, models dropping out, models not showing up and weather changing seasons after the first three days. I had cried at least once a week. My trick to getting through it was treating it like a marathon. I kind of took four or five films at a time and just dealt with them.. and didn’t look too far ahead.
I started the project the second week of September and shot three films. All three shoots were easy breezy. I had confidence and then I got sick for two weeks. Once I was better, it was October 2nd, two pics were already posted and I had to shoot pretty much every day since to keep up with the “posting-a-new-film-every-day-thing”. Several films I had originally sketched and planned to include had to be dropped (which broke my heart) but several surprises came up too! I got a bunch of random props from friends, fans and colleagues (like two headed babies and giant snakes) about halfway through the series, which was a Godsend. It helped me conceptualize new film projects to make up for ones that had to fall to the side. Certain things, like JAWS for example were impossible to shoot well once the weather suddenly drops and the tides rise. Nobody would go into the ocean in cold weather, and my camera wouldn’t survive the waves..
But yes. Very hard. Certain shoots seemed like they were gonna be a breeze and then when you are actually shooting, you experience huge problems. Silly things you don’t even think of. How is the Freddy Kreuger glove gonna stand up in a real bathtub? How do you shoot with the right depth of field to make Blair Witch “stick men” stand out in a fall forest full of sticks!? Changing the lighting in every shot for a nine shot Hitchcock Psycho tribute? With hot lights and water running? I learned more in the last month about making films than in Film School…..
TN: Tell me about your history - how did you get into photography? Who have been your main influences? And what has been your proudest achievement so far?
KF: I have been taking pictures professionally since 1999. I had my first exhibition then, but I suppose I’ve been taking photos my whole life. I started sharing them in 1999 at the request of an art dealer I photographed for fun. My mom enrolled me in a photo summer class I begged to be in when I was eight or nine. The teacher told her I was a prodigy and used math while I shot. Which was funny at the time, because I was terrible at math.
My main influences are mostly directors/cinematographers that started out as photographers. I love Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Hitchcock.. My favorite artists are Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali. As for other photographers, I love a lot of artists work, but don’t really identify with them. I love Nan Goldin’s honesty. Diane Arbus—obviously, amazing. Penn, Liebowitz, Sherman all so talented. But, I feel a kinship with the directors. I feel like a director when I’m shooting. I usually work alone, and am very hands on.
TN: Have you always been a big fan of Halloween? Do you have any favourite Halloween memories? Some people say it’s the gay Christmas!
KF: I used to always call it Gay Xmas too! HA! I love Halloween and ALWAYS have. I am also one of those kids who was told, “Why are you dressed like that? It’s not Halloween!!” by asshole kids (and some adults) pretty much daily growing up. Halloween when I was young, was always a blast cause I could let my freak flag fly, be ugly, be weird as much as I wanted and I was tortured a little less than every other normal day. Some great Halloweens happened in West Hollywood when I was coming of “gay-age” and experiencing all that glam and “wow” for the first times. I performed several Halloweens in San Francisco when I did the drag/performance art thing… That is always fun. Nowadays, I feel older and calmer, and Halloween tends to be staying in with the husband and watching scary movies.. This year, I may actually go “out”.... if the trains are running by then.
TN: What’s next after 31 Days Of Halloween?
KF: Scarily.. my first Manhattan photography exhibition! In, like, 9 days. I’m showing some new work (with painter Al Benkin) in the East Village at Tribes Gallery.. Exciting. Daunting.
Post-Show… I’m looking into a 31 Days Of Halloween book. And another exhibition in Manchester, UK (with Pam Van Damned) in the spring!
TN: You feature 31 different horror movies in your project, but I am wondering - if you died and went to hell and could only see one double-bill ever again, what would it be?
KF: Golly. Goooood question..
Probably wouldn’t be a horror movie! I have had my fill for now… My favorite director is Jodorowsky. I’d go with a double feature of two of his.. THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and EL TOPO…. or maybe JAWS.
You can see more of Krys Fox’s photography here. Can you name the horror movies referenced in the pictures above?