Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paradise Profiles: Amanda Norman

Today, I had the pleasure of talking to somebody that I met online and after checking out her website and her photography I was entranced into it. The noir-ish qualities of her photography capture my eye and I wanted to know more about her. Much like her, I too am attracted to that architecture and quietness of cemeteries so i knew we had something in common. Below is my 'interview.'

Note: This was such a great interview and she told me some very powerful things and this was by far, one of the best interviews that I conducted and it was so hard for me to edit this interview.

What got you into photography?

I grew up in a small English village that had a very old church and graveyard by the coast. Behind this church up on the headlands lay the ruins of an old 6th century chapel and alongside that are some rock cut graves. (links to all images below attached). I grew up playing around these graves and on the beach and it was beautiful and peaceful until I was ripped away from it. To cut a long story short, at the age of 9, my mother married a vicious alcoholic who constantly tortured her and abused me and my sisters. Eventually, me and my sisters were placed into a children’s home for our safety and the only way my mother could have us back was to move away and go into hiding. This she did! I’m always drawn to my childhood haunt and it is a special place for me and I wanted to try and capture the atmosphere and beauty of it to show everyone just what it means to me. This is what got me into photography.

What made you so interested in the atmospheres of graveyards and cemeteries?

Graveyards and cemeteries are the resting ground of the dead and therefore they are peaceful places to escape to when I want to escape the stresses of everyday life. Personally, it’s where I feel safe and away from harm’s way. I was happy until my step dad came along and I had to grow up fast to survive. Therefore I find graveyards to be somewhat comforting. I probably sound like a loony now, but it is quite hard to explain. Another favourite pastime of mine when visiting graveyards and cemeteries is looking at the headstones and tombs and wondering what the people must have been like when alive. Some headstones tell a story, such as two sisters drowning or a young couple in love who died in a motorbike accident. If I come across an old decrepit tomb, I wonder if I’ll see a rotting casket or even a skeleton by peeking through the cracks. My imagination runs riot and so do my emotions.

While looking through your pictures, I can see how vampires and Universal Horror has influenced your work, but elaborate on how Hammer Horror has been an influence.

Nowadays when watching Hammer Horror, I think that they are such cheesy films with the bright red paint used to imitate blood, but as a young impressionable teenager, these films were scary and intriguing at the same time. Hammer Horror also got it right with their Gothic scenes, graveyards that the vampires rose from and the old castles. Universal Horror were masters of setting the atmosphere of graveyards and spooky scenes with the drifting smoke and long shadows that could be hiding a number of monsters. They really knew how to set the atmosphere for a good horror and I miss the effects of lighting and shadows in modern day horror. I hope to achieve the same atmosphere when taking photographs.

A lot of people are attracted to the architecture and layout of cemeteries and their headstones, why do you think that is?

Every headstone and tomb tells it own story. You instantly know if someone was wealthy by their elaborate tomb and you know if someone came from a big family if there are numerous graves clustered together with the same surname. From looking at the symbols used on the headstones, you can tell if that person was a sailor, mason, carpenter etc… Victorian cemeteries are my favourite because they seem to celebrate death with elaborate carvings and fancy architecture. I saw an old Victorian coffin in a museum and it was black with brass studs and really fancy. It was beautiful!

Can you tell me a little bit about 'Strawberry Massacre?' What was your intention?

I was bored one afternoon and couldn’t go out with the camera as it was raining and dull. My creativity was running a riot and this is when I thought of Strawberry Massacre. I wanted to see what it would be like ripping the juicy flesh of the strawberries and letting the juices run freely, just like blood would if it was human flesh. I also thought that the red would look striking against the gleaming silver of the grater and I achieved my objective. Now I have to say that I wouldn’t like to grate human flesh as I’m very squeamish and wouldn’t want to inflict pain on someone let alone have their blood on my hands.

Every photo seems to fit a theme but 'Styles & Co Chartered Accountants' seems out of place. What was the attraction to this building?

There was a local photography competition ran by ‘Styles & Co Chartered Accountants’ and the theme was to take a photograph of something local for their office walls. I decided to take a photograph of their building, which got a runners up prize and it’s on the site because I like it. I entered 3 photographs in total and the ‘Millenium Gate’ photograph came second and is framed on their boardroom wall.

Do you have a favorite horror film? If so, why?

It has to be Stephen King’s original Salem’s Lot with David Soul. OMG, this actually terrified me as a teenager so badly that I cried because no one would let me share a bed with them and told me to grow up. In the UK, they played Salem’s Lot on BBC1 over two nights. When it came to the second night, I had to beg my mother to let me watch it and she kept on saying no, because I’ll cry again, but she gave in when I told her that I wouldn’t, but I did! I believe that Mr Barlow influences my dark portrait photography today as I love to create portraits of friends and family simply by asking them to pull an evil face without the effects of make-up. Salem’s Lot had such a good story line and David Soul was fantastic. King has an excellent talent of making you believe and feel the emotions of his lead characters and I never tire of watching Salem’s Lot.

In your spare time, what do you like to do? How do you like to relax?

I’ve recently become a grandma and I’m not even 40 GOD DAMN IT! I love to hold my granddaughter Holly and look after her. At the time of writing, she’s only 3 wks old and she’s beautiful. Other than that, I like to chill out on Twitter and read Richard Laymon books.

Click here for Amanda's wesite
Follow Amanda here on Twitter.


Cruz said...

This was such a great interview!!!! I only recently came across her work and it's been such an inspiration for me!!! I love that her images tell a story and have so much depth and beauty in it's darkness. It was really nice getting to know more about her and her inspirations as well. So insightful! Thank you!!!!

Stew said...

What you mentioned about those tomb stones telling a story is quite remarkable of a small quaint town. I have never seen or heard anything like that before. motorcycle crash lawyer los angeles

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