Photography... while living in Switzerland.
Not one of my friends or family were willing to smear on the death face paint and spew hungry grunts towards my camera after my pleas for their help with a zombie photo shoot. I decided to utilize the self-timer on my Pentax 645D and focus the lens on my own hideous undead face.
Earlier in the day, my two-year-old son and I went for a long walk through the streets by our home in Baar, Switzerland. It had been raining all morning and the ground had become messy with mud, wet leaves and smelly stagnant puddles – ideal conditions to augment my zombie apparel I was to wear for the shoot. My wee boy dragged a pair of worn jeans and a frilly white shirt behind him through the crud and dankness of the roads while neighbours watched from their balconies with curiosity, surely wondering what this weird English-speaker was doing, and what he was getting his baby-boy involved in. We stomped and pounded the clothes through the filth of our neighbourhood and headed back home and straight to the fridge. We grabbed the previous night's spaghetti dinner leftovers and violently bashed and smudged the remaining tomato sauce deep into the fibres of my tattered and dirt-caked dress shirt. Robin was giddy with glee as I attacked the clothes with scissors and sharp things to zombify the outfit further.
My wife's parents own an ancient barn that was built in the 1800's and it was the perfect backdrop for my obsession of horror-related imagery that I crave to do. It was cold, dark, dusty, and smelled like rotting shrubbery from seasons ago. My friend and makeup artist, Carina, gave me a heavy covering of gray decay and enhanced my already dark eyes with even darker dark pits of decomposition. We were doing the cosmetics besmirching in my In-laws kitchen, and they observed my transformation with confusion. I wasn’t sure if they knew what an undead was, and I wondered if Sandra had even told them what I was doing. They don’t speak English so there was no way for me to explain – and I wish I could have said something because they just stood by the fridge and stared at me with ambivalence. “Poor Sandra”, they must have been saying inside their Swiss-German speaking minds. The sullied trousers and manky dress shirt were pulled over my rotting limbs just before a fistful of industrial hair gel was thrust upon my head to crust-up my locks.
I’ve always loved the horror film genre, especially any zombie apocalypse themes, and it was a challenge to produce these horrific self-portraits out in the barn while my In-laws, Sandra and Robin watched with shock and bewilderment. The looks on their faces while I growled, regurgitated sweet corn syrup blood, and clawed at the camera made me worry that they would never think of me the same way again. I pushed on with blood oozing and sputtering from my gaping mouth – some of the gagging sounds were real when the sickly sweet goop traveled too far down my throat. “My poor In-laws”, I kept thinking while the strobes fired, lighting up my grotesque features and the dark regions of the cold dark cob-webbed barn I was standing in.
A couple hours went by and only my father-in-law was left watching. Then to my surprise, started giving me a bit of direction, helping me with my evil brain-hungry flesh-eating poses. He suggested I coat my hands in blood and drag them down the window and slap my face against the pane and spit out blood. Hmmmm, maybe he knows more about the genre then I thought. Some of the best shots were produced at the end when he stepped in with suggestions.
I finished the shoot and we all went back inside the warm house and had cookies, milk, and slices of delicious baked brains.