Friday, April 22, 2011

Interview: Joshua Hoffine, Horror Photographer

A couple weeks ago, I posted a feature on the work of Joshua Hoffine, a husband and father who's turning murder into an art. I don't mean literally of course. Mr. Hoffine has been making headlines with his surreal photography that gives rise to humanity's shared anxieties and phobias, with gruesome detail and admirable technique. Joshua graciously granted our request for an interview, and we can say straight off that his cookie trick really works.

You used to have a career in wedding photography. How did this start?
I had been working as a photo-assistant at Hallmark Cards, when I left to start a wedding photography business out of my home.  Partly, I wanted to be home more with my kids.  But also, there was a lot more money to be made shooting weddings.  I would recommend it to any young photographer.  Weddings are like photography bootcamp.

I understand that everyone in your photos are either family or close friends, and that they work for free. What led to that decision?

That began out of pragmatism.  When I started shooting Horror, my children were the only available models that I could work with safely.  I used other family members as the monsters to help insure that my children would never be actually frightened during the shoot. (Editor's Note: That's the truth. The horrific clown in the photo titled "Balloons"? It's grandma!)  Everyone working for free helps demarcate that my project is personal, not commercial in nature.  Unlike such giants as Gregory Crewdson or David LaChappelle, I do not have extravagant budgets or a crack team of ace professionals to rely upon.  I am attempting work on the same level, but with borrowed equipment, micro-budgets, and children as crew. 

I imagine that your work has disturbed or offended certain people. What kind of feedback do you usually get?

I did receive some hate mail when my work first came online.  I started a blog to show how I was making my images - and that the children were enjoying themselves (and not being abused) - and the hate mail stopped coming in.  Without explanation, people thought I was a monster.  

It seems your primary influence is classic fairy tales. How do these play a part in fear, and in your work?

Horror films are modern fairy tales.  They deal with the same archetypes and the same themes. 

Do you ever have difficulty with the younger subjects being frightened of the scene or the "fiend's" make-up? How do you calm them down?

They are never frightened.  The actual shooting lasts only a few minutes.  I sometimes bake cookies during the shoot.  They can smell them, they're excited to get to them.  They're eager to commit to the shot and do a good job so that it's all done in time for the cookies.

Bob Barber is often the subject of your photos. What makes him the best man for the job? (Other than an ability to look creepy, of course.)

Because Bob has the best face!  He is not a professional model - he used to work with my dad.  He is just a great guy and he truly enjoys doing it - he is game for everything.  Plus, I really enjoy using the same actor over and over again. 

Any chance of another series? "Pickman's Masterpiece" was exceptionally impressive, in my opinion.

Thanks!  I'd love to do another 5 image series that acts out more of a scene.  I have a couple of ideas, but haven't yet found the locations I need.

What instinctual childhood fears have you not tackled yet? I suppose it would be difficult to do a photograph about being afraid of the dark. 

There are so many more - water (and things in the water), quicksand, parasites, Santa Claus, rats - the list goes on.

Your work is captivating in its potential to remind children and adults of suppressed fears. Why does that intrigue you?

I am specifically interested in Jungian psychology and how the Unconscious works.  Horror provides a way for me to explore the mechanisms involved.

So, if I work for free, can I be in a Hoffine original?

I'll have to know you a little bit better as a friend.  You wanna come over and help paint my house?

Sure! You get the brushes, I'll get the blood.

Joshua, thank you so much for your time. Come back and visit us often!

Thanks again! I really appreciate it! 

~The Haunted Drive-in

Don't forget to visit the man's website, which features a gallery of his work, and his behind-the-scenes blog, with details that you won't find anywhere else. Example: did you know that the devil wears blue jeans? Hoffine's got photographic proof!


  1. He seems like a really interesting guy. I was perusing his gallery when you first talked about it and the images are truly fantastic. Horrifying, yes, but fantastic. Actually, I get a sense that some of them are supposed to be a tad funnier than others. The devil one you mentioned, for example. There's just no way I can find that anything but funny. I don't know why.

  2. I thought on some level that they were all funny when I was making them. On a couple, DEVIL and SNAKE, I thought I was being more obvious with the humor. I'm glad you thought they were funny! I'm not sure what it says about our sense of humor...