Every year a friend of mine sets up an extraordinary display for Halloween, with
hundreds of figures, both animal and human, skeletal and in the flesh; come to
think of it, most of them clothed, mostly are life-sized. Extremely clever and very goulish.
He sets it up in front of his place of business, the local hardware store, right alongside the
tourist railroad right in the center of town. A Halloween celebration, to proclaim hilarity
in the face of Death. That's right, isn't it? I think it is... "Hilarity in the face of Death"
I've driven past the collection over the years of course, watched it grow in scale;
growing in complexity and thoughtfulness as well, judging by what I've seen this year .
But, I never thought about photographing it. I don't know...such a public place I suppose.
This year it was my friend, the artist himself, who suggested that I come down and take
some pictures. And aren't I glad I did seeing the results!
Still, I do feel some ambiguity toward this work, because for the first time in a
lifetime of photography I'm making pictures of someone else's art. I had never paid much
attention to that sort of thing. I've always been interested in making pictures of real
people in interesting places. And here's me in the middle of town, if you see what i mean.
And yet, how pleased I am with the pictures.
I immediately approached these grinning, goulash figures with joy, as if they
were old friends of mine. I had the chance here to take a look at my work the first time
around, consider what I'd shot, to go back and do it again. Don't ask me why I never
worked like that before. I don't know...maybe it's just because I'm lazy... maybe it has
something to do with a great affaction for chance."LadyLuck" after all.
Some of the set-ups meant more to me than others. That has to do with
what groups were easiest to photograph; that often meant those subjects that had a back-
ground easy to resolve. I'm thinking of the party of Asian woman figurines scattered around
of the giant spruce tree, so evocative of the war in Vietnam for me.
My favorite series is the skeleton crew dressed in red and black, in the back of the old
baker's van. (The artist drives the van around town when it's not being used for Halloween.)
I shot it three times, working to, among other things, get the chain that cuts across the picture
complete in focus. There are still a lot of new pictures to be made with that set-up.
Certainly the lumberjack framed, as he is, by the two sugar maples; because of his
idiot sideburns, hatchet in his boney right hand. I like the Doctor and his wife with the gold
glow of the store light behind them; or is he a Professor? or a Lawyer? or an Artist and
his Wife? And finally, the single shots of the security guard skeletons in their handsome blue
uniforms with careless specks of the town's commercial light scattered about them. What fun!
The other day I asked my friend, the artist, did he make any sketches before he set
up his display each year, take test pictures, anything like that? He said "no" he didn't,
he just did it out of his head; "wow" how amazing! I asked him, did he basically make
the same set-up, use the same groupings year after year? Thinking that maybe he kept
the basic groupings year to year, adding a flourish here and there. The artist said. "no", he made
it pretty much different every year. Amazing, don't you think? I look forward to shooting there
again next Halloween.
the ivoryton studio