Meeting the hoards
One of the interesting and more pleasant things about my unusual work is the sheer number of people I get to meet. Every week, I meet new faces willing to subject themselves to my peculiar style of portraiture. Most of the time they arrive not quite knowing what to expect, and they trust me to make them look as scary as possible.
The zombie portraits are among the most popular and this is always a fascinating theme. Every zombie I create is as unique as the client. I've had all shapes and sizes, all different age groups, and from all walks of life. When you think about it, they form a real "zombie hoard" in as much as they all come from vastly different backgrounds and yet as zombies, they all become the same tragic beast. Becoming a zombie is the great social leveller, ignoring wealth, class, intellect and other factors of identity. All zombies are the same, but also different in their way. When you've created and photographed as many zombies as I have, you actually see this in action - directing the client into poses and expressions of torment and rage really lets you dig in to their deeper personality and through these extreme common actions their individuality bursts into being.
Most modern zombie films appear to have lost a lot of their satire, instead forming a disaster condition "backdrop" for horror and action driven stories. When George A. Romero first committed the undead to film, satire was the main objective, being used to make probing social commentary about race, consumerism, identity, and socialism. Today's zombie is more about cool makeup effects and gore, indicating that the zombie aesthetic is more essential to audiences than their political subtext. It's been a fascinating evolution really. The better the makeup and gory designs have become, the less relevant their social satire.
What I find especially interesting is how zombies are perceived by the people who come to do the shoots. Once the client is covered in latex, face paint, and fake blood, they really feel a sense of fun and excitement. The more disgusting and gory I suggest we make things, the more amused they become. Performing the poses usually results in fits of giggles. In short, the living dead are no longer scary at all but instead have become the equivalent of a fun day out at a theme park. This does have the effect of making my task a little more challenging as I still try to achieve scary photos, but never at the expense of the funny experience. Often, getting the perfect zombie snarl is a matter of good timing with the shutter.
Without doubt, my favourite moment in any zombie shoot is always the same. When I hold out the red, disgusting, dripping blob of meaty gore and tell them to "start eating it" they exhibit a look of terror. "You don't pretend to eat it, you really get your teeth in there and rip at it". Their faces! Ha ha!
Thanks for reading folks. Keep loving horror :)