Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Photographer April A. Taylor

April A. Taylor's Post-Apocalyptic Princess

April A. Taylor is an internationally published and exhibited dark art horror photographer from Detroit, Michigan whose work has been featured in over 50 galleries, books, magazines, DVDs, calendars, websites, conventions and events. Her recent publication credits include Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, Darkfaery Subculture Magazine and WU Magazine. Over the next year her work is slated to appear in several more books and magazines in two different countries, including the horror anthology What Fears Become (featuring authors such as Piers Anthony and Ramsey Campbell).

We had the absolute pleasure to interview April A. Taylor, which fortuitously landed during Women in Horror Month! She uses her long-term love affair with all things horror to create dark art, horror and fine art photography which is described as “unique, unusual and unconventional”. Below you can read about her cinematic photographs, how she feels about women breaking into (and taking over) the “boy’s club” of horror, her most prized possession, what kind of art she has hanging in her home and just how fortunate she feels to spend her days covered in fake blood and call it work.

Fatally Yours: Hi April and welcome! When did you become interested in the field of photography?

April A. Taylor: Hi Fatally Yours, it’s my pleasure to speak with you today! I’ve been interested in photography since I was very young, to the point where I usually joke about coming out of the womb with a camera in my hand. I didn’t become serious about it until 2007, though.

Fatally Yours: How would you describe your photographic style?

April A. Taylor: The grittiness of many of my photographs has often been referred to as looking like it’s from the ‘70s and although that wasn’t intentional, I definitely see a lot of the style of the ‘70s in my photographs. In addition to which, I’m not content to take photographs at the same angles that most photographers do; I’ve been known to lay in greasy railroad tracks and climb trees just to get a different perspective on something.  And those photographs are almost always the ones that become fan favorites so my willingness to get my clothes dirty and, at times, to take what some would call “a risk” has definitely been a good thing, and has defined a lot of my work and my style.

Fatally Yours: Horror obviously plays a large part in your art. What made you want to focus on dark art and why? 

April A. Taylor: I’ve been in love with horror movies and novels since way before it was probably age appropriate. When I started focusing more seriously on photography, I was instantly drawn to the dark side of humanity. It didn’t take long for me to connect that with my love of horror. Each of the photographs has a dual meaning; the meaning you see on the surface, which is the more basic horror story, and a back story that is usually rooted in social commentary. Horror/Dark Art just makes the most sense to me and speaks to me the most.

Fatally Yours: I’m really struck by the vividness of your photographs, which really helps them stand out from other horror art. What inspired you to use this mode of expression? 

April A. Taylor: Most horror/dark artists use starkness to express the horror in their images. I chose to go in the exact opposite direction with the majority of my work by infusing it with bright, vivid colors. The intention behind this was to make the photographs feel more real to the viewer, in order to allow them to feel as if they’re seeing the scenes happening right in front of them.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us how you go about creating the back story and characters for your photographs? 

April A. Taylor: The basic storylines come from a number of different places; some are inspired by things I encounter in real life, some come while sitting still and rooting through my blood-soaked imagination and others come from the models (for example, She’s Dead is based on a poem written by model Shannon Waite). Once a basic storyline is selected, I create a back story for the character(s) that is fleshed out enough to allow me to inhabit their headspace during a shoot. I also make sure that the basic concept has a dual meaning (societal commentary) as I never shoot gore just for the sake of gore.

Fatally Yours: What is your creative process before, during and after a shoot? 

April A. Taylor: Once a storyline is selected, a model(s), costuming, props and a location are chosen. Based on those, other elements of the shoot fall into place organically. On the day of a shoot I listen to music that allows me to inhabit the headspace of the character(s). Once I’m on set, I walk the model(s) through the basics of the storyline and any specific poses/actions that I want to capture. My sets are typically run more like a movie set in that the model(s) actually acts out the scenes that are captured instead of just holding a pose. I experiment a lot on set, in that I don’t just capture what was already in my head, I also capture any new ideas that come to mind during the shoot and also anything that the model(s) wants to try out. Once the shoot is done, I use music to stay in the headspace of the character(s) during the editing process in order to best bring out what the character(s) was trying to say in the shoot.

Fatally Yours: Which one of your characters would make the most interesting dinner guest? 

April A. Taylor: That depends on what you’re serving, as they all have, shall we say, particular tastes in food. But in all seriousness, probably either the unnamed character from Loss of Innocence, as that character is the manifestation of the beaten down (but never broken) spirit of the city of Detroit or the Princess of Decay from A Twisted Fairytale, as she’s torn between two different personalities and that would definitely make for some interesting conversational twists.

Fatally Yours: What do you hope to accomplish/express through your art? 

April A. Taylor: I seek to shed light on the darkness within all of humanity. Most people try to hide their darkness; I think it’s better to bring it to the forefront in order to examine it.  I hope that my photographs will make people pause for a second and think. Sometimes people are visibly jarred by looking at my photographs and since the point of art is to evoke an emotion in someone, be that a good emotion or a bad emotion, I take it as a compliment whenever someone has a strong reaction of any kind.

Fatally Yours: What equipment do you work with?

April A. Taylor: I use Canon equipment and do the majority of my Dark Art shoots with a wide angle lens, as opposed to the more traditional usage of a portrait lens, which is part of why my photos have a different “feel” to them.

Fatally Yours: How does digital manipulation play a part in your art? 

April A. Taylor: Aside from enhancing colors and sometimes adding what I’ve dubbed “bleed frames” I don’t really use a lot of digital manipulation. All of the makeup that you see was really on the models and the props and background were all really there during the shoot, too. I prefer to capture things for real whenever possible as I believe that a viewer can tell when something has been altered, no matter how well done it is, and that keeps them from really believing in the photo.

Fatally Yours: What was the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?

April A. Taylor: Probably the photo from the Post-Apocalyptic Princess set that features the princess holding an oriental fan while standing in front of the Michigan Central Station (which is an abandoned train station in Detroit, MI).

Fatally Yours: If you could choose a horror icon as a subject for your photographs, who would it be and why? 

April A. Taylor: The child in me that grew up loving the original A Nightmare on Elm Street says Freddy Krueger and Nancy Thompson, but the one person working in horror that I’ve always looked up to is Clive Barker, so it would be very interesting to photograph him.  His work has always pushed boundaries and I admire his courage to be completely open about who he is with the entire world.

Fatally Yours: Music usually plays an important role in the creative process. What is your favorite kind of music to listen to? 

April A Taylor: When I’m not creating I tend to listen to Alternative and Indie music, with a lot of my time spent listening to the two latest albums by Green Day. But when I’m creating, I listen to music that helps me inhabit the headspace of the character(s). For example, the theme song for Mine is “Lights Out” by Breaking Benjamin. Sometimes my day to day music does inspire me (a Green Day song led to the creation of the Nuclear Series) but for the most part I tend to put on something with a heavier/darker feel to help me create a Dark Art piece. Fortunately I have a very diverse collection of music, so there’s something on my iPod for just about any scenario.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in your business get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts? How about women in the horror industry as a whole? 

April A. Taylor: There are not many women in my specific niche of the horror genre, but as with just about any industry, men do unfortunately seem to get more recognition. The horror industry has long been known to be basically a “boys club” and this can be seen through the disproportionate number of working male to female directors, writers, etc. Things like Women in Horror Recognition Month are shedding light on this issue, though, and independent film festivals such as BleedFest are making it easier for female filmmakers to get their work in front of the public eye.

Fatally Yours: What women do you admire?

April A. Taylor: I admire every woman who is working really hard to break into the long standing “boys club” that is the industry of horror and I give special props to Rachel Talalay for all of her work within the industry. I admire the women in history who have stood up for women’s rights and civil rights. And I admire the women in my personal life who do amazing things daily, such as my aunt who spends almost all of her spare time making hats and scarves to donate to the homeless.

Fatally Yours: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

April A. Taylor: I really love the non-landscape work that Ansel Adams did earlier in his career.  I find that a lot of the other work that I’m really drawn to is being produced by people who have no interest in actually having a career as a professional photographer. There are a lot of really talented people out there who have shared their stuff with me, some who have been kind enough to say that mine inspired theirs, and I love to look at photography of all kinds/from all fields.

Fatally Yours: Recently, have you come across any new artists whose work you’ve absolutely fallen in love with? This can include photographers, filmmakers, musicians, etc. 

April A. Taylor: Although I wouldn’t say I came across him recently, one of my absolute favorite artists is Chris Mars. His work inspires me greatly. As to musicians and other artists, I constantly seek out new work and seem to have a new favorite song and movie every other day, so any list of recent favorites would be extremely long. However, my current favorite song is “A Walk Through Hell” by Say Anything and the last movie I saw that I really loved was Buried.

Fatally Yours: What is your most prized possession? 

April A. Taylor: Aside from my camera I’d say my iPod. Music is one of the few things in life that I really don’t think I could live without.  The second runner up would be my passport because I want to see, and photograph, the entire world.

Fatally Yours: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you want to be and why?

April A. Taylor: A cinematographer, which is something that I may eventually branch into. I’m too strongly connected to telling a story through a visual format to not have some form of a camera in my hands.

Fatally Yours: What kind of art do you have hanging in your home? 

April A. Taylor: I have a lot of Halloween related art (most of it throwbacks to “classic Halloween” from the ‘30s – ‘50s).  I also have several pieces from artist Matt Busch.

Fatally Yours: You also shoot many haunted attractions. What is your favorite haunted attraction you’ve visited and/or shot and why? 

April A. Taylor: I have many favorite haunts around the country, but probably the best one I’ve ever been to is The 13th Gate in Baton Rouge, LA. It is the most lovingly detailed haunt I’ve ever seen and, for obvious reasons, the visual presentation of a haunted attraction is very important to me. As far as just having a really fun and unusual experience, though, The House of Shock in New Orleans wins hands down for their full body contact style of haunting.

Fatally Yours: And lastly, one of my favorite questions to ask…What are some of your favorite horror movies? 

April A. Taylor: I have so many favorites!  Here are the ones that come to mind immediately:  A Nightmare on Elm Street (the original) parts 1 & 3, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Evil Dead, Fido, Shaun of the Dead, all of the Romero zombie movies, Hellraiser, [REC], Cube, Saw (parts 1 & 2), Halloween (the original), Trick R Treat, 1408 (the director’s cut), The Collector, Cabin Fever and The Human Centipede.

Fatally Yours: Let me sneak one more question in here…can you tell us about the next series you are going to shoot or any other projects you have lined up? 

April A. Taylor: Although I have several sets lined up, I typically don’t discuss them in advance. I will say, though, that a few popular sets are going to have continuations, one of which will probably really surprise the fans with the direction that it’s going to take.  As to publications, appearances, etc., some of my darker Fine Art pieces will be featured in an upcoming horror anthology entitled What Fears Become. Some of my work will also be seen in an upcoming short horror film entitled CathARTic, written and directed by Devanny Pinn.  I will also be making appearances this month at Con Nooga in Chattanooga, TN and MystiCon in Roanoke, VA and then in April at Motor City Nightmares in Novi, MI.

Fans can see more of my work at www.aprilataylor.com and can get sneak peaks of upcoming shoots, exclusive content & discounts, etc. by “liking” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aprilataylorphotography.  Thanks, Fatally Yours!

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