Feature Story

I, Photographer

Twilight Zone
reflection in bean
Chicago's Wild Life
self portrait
City scape
Chicago Board of Trade

Why I am drawn to photography? It gives me outlets for the writing where I normally wouldn't have them – doing more surreal photos too also draw for darker fiction works. Seeing a photo as I would take a picture of it, then I would do some editing to it if it isn't surreal enough already. As a writer, I have a photographer's imagination. Photography for me was something learned later on, and it was something I picked up again when I get older. I've been doing photography off and on since the age of sixteen. Photography can invoke a lot of stories, and it can be said photos can tell 1000 or 2000 words. Photography can create a different kind of creepy.

When I edit the Tabloid Purposes anthologies, I do all I can to include my photography in with it because there is something there that adds to the anthology. Contributing to the darkness or the actual weirdness of the stories.

Before I decided to write full time I actually wanted to go to college for photography so I can better my skills in a dark room. I know how to develop film but I am out of practice, so I guess it is a lost art to be a photographer who can do that too. My step-father knew how to do all of that and that who was taught me everything I knew about being a photographer. My own book covers (the collections I wrote) have covers I took photos of. The second collection, I don't know anything about the guy who took the picture of the wood carving, but the carving inspired the story I wrote called The Statue.

I mentioned that in the Skullring.org interview that I am a photographer and sometimes will do a few photography gigs – wish I had more gigs as a photographer because that would help the writing gig too. I think they go hand in hand. It is hard not being to have a picture to work with, and in that being a prolific writer it helps to be a prolific photographer.

I am starting to get known as a photographer too these days, and I think the one who actually billed me as a photographer first is Gwen of Grigori 3. She saw the photography here on Deviantart.com and thought of some surreal stuff when I worked with the pictures. I always had that aspect when I did self-portraits. Eventually I want to do wedding photos if the ideas are right (that means if they want art photos, then yeah. I will go for it.)

I used a wide array of cameras over the 13 years I've been a photographer, I've been a writer since 1990. Photography these days are an additional outlet for my writing too – it allows me to write darker horror fiction when I look at the place in the photo I have the ideas for something scarier that can happen there. I was a writer first then a photographer, but it is always fun when I can get out and do the photography to go with a book or an anthology. Tabloid Purposes 3 and Tabloid Purposes IV both employ the use of my photography. Always a challenge to do photography with fiction because it allows you to fill in the rest of the picture after it is done – since a picture does tell 1000 words so to speak.

The Chicago Board of Trade was the photo used on Tabloid Purposes IV and that was taken over the summer of 2007, and the photo used for Tabloid Purposes 3 was done in 2002 taken at Edgewater Beach in Chicago when I was staying at a hostel. I was in town visiting a few friends who were doing a Goth night and that was the same week when I threw out my back falling off a top bunk.

Also it allowed me to do all my own author photos, I don't really like when other people do my photos when they don't know what kind of stuff I do as far as a writer or a photographer. There is only one person I allow to do my photos and that is a guy who goes on as The Evil Chemist because he captures the mysterious aspect as a writer. I use a lot of far away shots and weird camera angles with my shots. Now I am employing a tripod with a camera I got – it makes things a lot more interesting. Some of the pictures are handheld or used different things as a way to balance the camera off.

Photography allows me to be more social with people too, but the cool thing I would like to see done is an exhibition with my photography but a lot of my original photos got lost when I moved from Illinois to Iowa so I am in the process of rebuilding the portfolio so to speak. The fact I got back into it just recently as 1999 allowed me to take the writing to another level because the writing and photography do work as one. I've toyed with the idea of creating a photonovel – being I am also learning how to manipulate my own photos too with a program called fxfoto, and the covers for the anthologies came out from tooling around with this program.

It took me nearly having a nervous breakdown to getting back into photography, but when I did –– believe it not the cover of my first book was done from a photo taken in 1999, while I was living in Mason City, Iowa. Using the photography for an anthology was an afterthought, namely when I was putting together Tabloid Purposes 3 and Tabloid Purposes IV. I don't have the programs like photoshop to doctor up the pictures like many have but the programs I do have allow me to make digital photos look like they came from a film camera. Photography for me is an extension to writing science fiction and seeing something that is more sci-fi based in a photograph sometimes creates a real eeriness. I always considered myself a writer first then a photographer. Not always the other way around but I did a lot of the about the author or editor photos myself for the book I was writing or editing at the time.

I toyed with various forms of photography over the years I am not contributing to the argument of the "film vs. digital" because I value both of them. I did the film style in the early 1990's and yes I do miss my old camera – it was a Minolta but Sony bought them out and I am beginning to notice that digital cameras are easier and easier to get my hands on. The fact I just recently invested in a tripod and a camera bag (so I can store batteries in it. I learned that doing photography with a digital video camera that they are battery eating bastards.)

The first thing I do when I get a new camera is do a few test shots and the pictures of the pigeons on the L-Train were my test shots, the first one was waiting for the blue line and I was right out of the hospital at the time when I took that picture. Being a photographer I think there are different kinds of creepy when doing photography, there are the horror and the sci-fi creepy. Doing the pictures of the pigeons I thought about our jokes about how pigeons can be creepy little birds because they're everywhere.

What ever nightmare you have, it is hard to illustrate it with just a drawing sometimes – and when I wrote a particular story such as Among Shadows, what worked with it was a photograph taken by an attendant in 2002 (using a Polaroid Joycam no less. I wrote the story around that photo.) Living around Joliet, Illinois, Joliet itself is a photographers dream so to speak – if you like to do photography that has a horror theme this place is just the place to do it at because a lot of the old houses right behind downtown seem to have that Richard Matheson type vampire story feel. Photographers have more a challenge to work with when creating a horror feel with the stories, I think Science Fiction is a harder genre to do photography with but if you have a town like Chicago – the sci-fi element works itself in (more the cyberpunk background.) When looking at the photos after its done, the story will fall into place.

Have fun with the ideas you come up with is what I am saying, I am a recluse as a writer but when I am a photographer – it allows me to be more social with people. No matter how many people get creeped out by someone writing horror they are always intrigued by someone who is a photographer. Though I haven't received any professional training in the photography field on a college level, my stepfather taught me the tricks of the trade. The photo that got me wanting to get into it and not get out is the one he took of the fountain as a thunderstorm comes in. Photography can set up for a horror creepy or a science fiction creepy. If my photography instructor in high school saw some of the photos I am doing now, I think he would be encouraging I went back to college for it – I wanted to go to college for this but the jobs are harder to get as a photographer unless you're a wedding photographer. If I was to do the wedding photography gig, I would try to convince the couple getting married to allow me to do it with a more surreal approach.

Being a photographer it makes it harder to get writers block but it is there, but when I look at the photos I take and think about story ideas they come instantly and looking at the old photos – the stories will come a lot faster than usual. It's fun being a photographer but sometimes living in a small town like in Morris or Coal City, the chances don't come up that often. When I had my own place in Justice, Illinois, I found myself photographing the funerals from my balcony. Either way I was doing photography as a practical joke or just for the fact I liked to do photos. The practical joke aspect was my room mate who was getting ready for HIM had her door open and had all her hair falls in place the other room mate was watching – saw that I snagged her camera for this one second, and she almost chased me all the way up 79th street all the way to Cicero Avenue.

In closing – I do consider myself a writer but I also consider myself a photographer. If you do photography and a writer – both go hand in hand. Photographers are story tellers in their own right so if you come into it with that sense of the word watch the writing too because it goes hand in hand -- it is a great cure for the writers block. Study your pictures when writing the story, or when you're writing the story study the camera -- imagine the pictures as you're writing the story or use the story you wrote to take the pictures how it plays out in your mind then it will play out with the camera too.

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