For the Love of Grim Photography [Warning: Graphic]

I have always found a sense of charm and comfort in what most people find frightening. It started as a love of horror movies in sixth grade and has escalated as I began creating more of my own art. While many run away from the things that make their hairs stand straight up, I am part of the group that casually strolls toward them. I am not a daredevil, a psychotic or a masochist, and I am certainly not arguing that my proclivity is the right one. I, like many people, just have strange interests, particularly a love of dark and grim photography.

Photography 101: Unbridled Exploration

Man wrapped in plastic covered in leaves
Photo by Nicholas Crawford, 2011 © 2019

When I took my first photography class in college, it was in an attempt to keep my sanity amidst a huge course load of “gen-ed” requirements. I have always loved photography but at the time had no idea that it would factor so heavily into my career. As I became more familiar with my camera and learned the basics of composition, tone and lighting, my teacher noticed that my work was much darker in tone than my classmates. While my friends enjoyed the work I submitted, my professor was admittedly disturbed.

Photography 135: Lesson in Self-Censorship

Tree view from the ground
Photo by Nicholas Crawford, 2012 © 2019

The next semester, I was excited to take the followup photography class. The primary focus of this class was to improve our photo editing skills. The first assignments were all about lighting and color. Because I was worried about freaking out another teacher, my work was brighter and more vibrant than it had ever been.

Little did I know that my reputation had apparently preceded me. My professors, new and old, were good friends. The two had discussed my work before I started the semester. She came to me after class one day and asked me what had changed in just a few months. I admitted to her that I was trying to not be so divisive. She laughed.

My professor liked what I was turning in, but was actually looking forward to seeing some more macabre submissions. She told me that moving forward she only wanted to see my genuine ideas, not ideas I thought she would like. I took what she said very seriously.

Pliers in blood with 3 teeth
Photo by Nicholas Crawford, 2012 © 2019

I think there is a lesson we should all take away from this experience. Never let a good idea pass you by because you think someone will not enjoy the outcome. Instead, focus on creating your work at the highest possible quality. Most likely, it will find an audience.

Roulez Media Exploration

Photography has become a large part of my day-to-day. I am the lead photographer for Roulez Magazine and Outdoor Editions. This means I often have to strike a balance between editorial and more artistic work. I think this dichotomy has actually made me a better photographer. Because there are so many different creative outlets at Roulez, I never feel like I am stifling the side of me that wants to photograph the dark and peculiar. In fact, I am encouraged to do so.

My only aim here is to explain that none of the images I capture are designed to scare or disturb. They aren’t frightening to me. They are simply part of a cathartic experience of sharing what I find most beautiful and exciting. I am not ashamed of that.

About Author

Nicholas is a graduate of Old Dominion University’s film program where he served as editor for many of the department’s faculty/student co-productions. Independently, his work has been showcased in festivals all over the United States, Europe and Asia. Nicholas is passionate about fiction writing, photography and filmmaking. He recently edited Escaping Fed, a feature-length documentary film also by Roulez. He also currently serves as the Creative Director for Roulez Media.

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