Gothic photography is an elusive term that is almost as hard to define as Goth culture itself. Although some Goth photography is dark, somber and macabre, the subjects of gothic photography can be more diverse than cemeteries and desolate landscapes. Goth photography may include portraits that range from being serious and fetishistic to playful and darkly humorous.
As a product of the Goth subculture, gothic photography can be understood only through having an understanding of Goth culture.
The Goth subculture began over the late 1970s and early 1980s. Initially part of the punk scene, Goths gradually diverged from punks to take on a distinct identity.
Rather than ignore the darker side of life, Goth culture accepts and focuses on death, suffering and pain. However, this doesn’t mean that Goths deny life and positive emotions. Instead, they have an interest in areas of life that non-Goths usually view with discomfort.
While Goth fashions tend towards predominantly black and white colors, reds and purples also play a role. Yet, like any area of fashion, individual tastes come into play. While some Goths favor fishnets and the lacey fashions of 18 th century costumes, other Goths prefer more industrial or leather-based fashions.
Goth culture, and Goth photography, is ultimately about a willingness to see beauty in the disturbing or morbid. Goth is as diverse as the writings of Poe and the lyrics of contemporary Goth bands.
Black and White Goth Photography
Because of the centrality of the colors black and white to Goth culture, black and white film is a natural choice for Goth photography. By removing color from photographs, black and white Goth photography can concentrate on the interplay of light and shadows. Cemetery photos are popular, whether or not people are present in the picture.
Black and white film lends Goth photography a mysterious, nostalgic feel. Similarly, the timelessness of the black and white tones helps gothic photography set scenes that remind the viewers of life, death and other such constants.
Sepia Hues and Gothic Photographs
Sepia options are available on many digital cameras. While sepia is a monochrome color scale (like black and white), it uses a brown-scale, rather than grayscale. With an early 1900s feel, sepia tone can produce ghostly, surreal images.
Gothic Photography Subjects
Goth photography subjects include both landscape and portraiture. Cemeteries, unusual headstones and crumbling architecture are all popular gothic photography subjects.
Some common themes for a gothic photographer may revolve around decay, isolation or desolation. Yet, gothic photography also can have a playful, even erotic, side. The PVC and leather outfits popular among Goths easily lend themselves to fetish photography, often with a nod towards 1950′s pin-up and leather goddess Betty Paige.
Gothic Landscapes and Structures
Landscapes are common images in gothic photography. Unlike traditional landscapes, the gothic tone may not stress the beauty or color of a scene but a mood of isolation and somberness. Moors, rocky precipices and barren fields are possible subjects for gothic photography.
When taking pictures of tombstones and architecture, Goth photography often employs low angle shots, making the structure appear to tower over the viewer. Conversely, Goth photography may use macro settings to zoom in on details or imperfections in structures to stress fragility and impermanence.
Natural Goth Photography
Although nature photography may seem antithetical to gothic photography, nature provides plenty of gothic inspiration. One example of natural gothic photography would be a spider web or a macro shot of a spider trapping its prey. Other subjects for natural gothic photography include:
- an animal (with the proper lighting) that appears ghostly
- an old bone lying on the grass
- road kill at a low angle so that it appears eye level in the print.
Posing for Gothic Photography
Posing for Goth photography depends on the nature of the photo shoot. A photographer can capture the mysterious, languid feel of Victorian pre-Raphaelite paintings with the subject reclining on old stairs, kneeling by graves or staring dreamily into the distance.
Posing for fetishistic gothic photography takes an entirely different tactic. Studying some of the “naughty” 1950s pin-up girls (especially Betty Paige) could be of value for aspiring fetish photographers. Other Goth photographers may wish to suggest suicide or murder or feature vampires and post-mortem themes. The key in all cases is to strive for an alternative, slightly macabre feel.
As part of the Goth subculture, Gothic photography focuses on the mysterious, the paranormal and the macabre.
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