This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time now. The gothic expression. Especially when it comes to photography. There is a certain aesthetic to what we today interpret as the gothic subculture. There is the music, there is the clothing, the jewelry, et cetera. There are the books to be read, the movies to be seen, the artwork to be enjoyed.
But there is more to the gothic expression than this very ornamented aestethic.
When I think of the gothic subculture, I tend to associate it very much with death. Death and despair, loneliness, what is lost and gone forever, the breathe and weight of history, love that goes beyond anything, emotions that are on the outside of a person, vampires, bats, corsets, long dresses and long, black hair, long coats for the men… am I the only one?
Now; there’s quite the difference when one thinks about how for example goth is portrayed, compared to (for example) punk rock. These are two completely different kinds of lifestyles, and their way to express themselves are equally different. Where goth is dramatic and introvert, clean and ornamental, punk rock is dirty, filthy, outspoken, sometimes political… and this tend to be shown, both when portrayed for an outside audience, as it is when presented to the subculture itself.
So what’s my point, then?
A number of years ago, I wrote a semiadvanced essay (C-uppsats) in art history, about the written gothic imagery visualized in the work of french photographer Eugène Atget (1857-1927). When Eugène Atget was alive, the gothic subculture as we know it today, didn’t exist. The gothic expression when it comes to music, fashion et cetera, was yet to see the light of the day. The emotions behind the gothic subculture existed, though. And that which I found interesting in my essay was that the gothic expression can be found pretty much anywhere, if you look at something in a specific way.
What I am saying right now should not be considered “true”. It is one (my) point of view, and is no truer than any other point of views. One of the benefits with studying art history, I’d say.
There are certain things that are strongly associated with the gothic subculture, and I suppose it goes back to the medieval gothic style. There’s a fairly strong connection to religion, for one. This is one of the reasons I these days won’t buy any gothic jewelry, because of all the crosses. I can’t wear anything I don’t feel I can stand for. But other than that and my personal note; when it comes to the aesthetics, certain things more or less belongs in the gothic expression. Iron gates. Cemetaries. Graves. Crosses. Corsets. Long, black hair. Bats. Vampires. Wolves.
Do we agree?
But what I personally believe is even more important is all the intricate stuff that lies behind the visual stuff. Especially when it comes to photography. Depending on how something was photographed, it could be percieved as very gothic. After giving it some thought, I realized that some of my own work may actually be percieved as rather gothic – although not all of it was done in a cemetary. Nor with young, skinny girls with corsets and long, black hair.
So what’s needed for a photograph to make demands on being percieved as gothic? Well, there are certain things at least I think of. It needs to play on the viewers fear. It doesn’t need to be very obvious, and the fear felt doesn’t need to be any kind of terror or horror. Just – some kind of uneasy feeling. Or; it should play on history and loss. Sorrow, sadness, grief. Neither does this have to be strongly felt. But to me, goth is a very emotional thing – hence the need to play on our feelings.
For me personally, I also enjoy the macabre. This may not be entirely gothic, actually, but look at some of Eugène Atget’s photographs of entrances to the tivoli and you’ll see what I mean. Also; think of various gargoyles that has been photographed in absurdum throughout the years. Grotesque, macabre, somewhat unpleasant, yet so extraordinarily beautiful.
The domestic can also be very gothic. It all depends on how it was photographed. Twist it around a bit, make it a bit weird, a little unknown.
When writing my essay about Eugène Atget and the gothic-ness in his work, I added a – for the art history as a subject, new way of interpretting and analyzing. Namely; the phototechnical vocabulary. That includes grain, light, composition and some other very technical terms. These are, I believe, necessary to be able to properly analyze and interpret a photograph. It requires knowledge about them, and this is why I believe it is so important that artists and photographers read art history and share their technical know-how to those who only has the theoretical knowledge.
When you photograph something you need to connect the dots between your abstract idea of how the image should look, and the actual result. The same goes for looking at a photograph. You need to know and understand what you’re looking at, and how to interpret and analyze it. I realize that this is way beyond what most people are interested in. In this, I am so geeky and stupidly nerdy. 😀
Okay. This didn’t at all turn out to be the blogpost I intended. I’ve rewritten it three times already. It turned out to be much more rantings than I intended – for this, I am sorry. Hopefully you gathered some kind of information somewhere deep beneath all the words I managed to burp out without saying anything at all (should I become a politician?).
I’ll keep my mouth shut now, and instead focusing (!) on keeping my eyes open (!) next time I go on a photographic adventure together with my sweetest Ella.
Until later, peeps! 😀