Dark, Gothic, horror and alternative photography isn’t everyone’s cup of tea…
Over the years, people have tried telling me to change my genre of photography if I want to make a living out of it. I simply can’t do this as I find traditional photography mundane.
Who is Amanda Norman?
Born in 1971, Amanda Norman is not your average female. Walk into Amanda’s place that she shares with her partner Mark and you’ll find skulls, witches, masks and lots more ghoulish items decorating the shelves and walls. She currently resides in the Georgian quarter of Liverpool and there finds lots of inspiration for her Gothic horror photography.
Amanda loves Gothic horror and finds the unknown to be scary, but enticing. She tries to project her passion, her thoughts and feelings of the genre onto the viewer. What is it about creepy imagery that unnerves people and how do you capture someones imagination with a photograph?
Why Gothic Horror and Alternative Photography?
There’s something about Gothic horror and the old tales of vampires, ghosts, demon’s and poltergeists that scares me a lot. I think it’s the unknown element as you find yourself wondering if these creatures exist and if they do, I don’t want them anywhere near me. Why do people write about them in the first place if they don’t exist? Have a read of Amanda’s latest thoughts on Gothic Horror.
I remember as a child catching my first glimpse of Frankenstein’s monster on the old Universal Horror films stumbling through a creepy graveyard and it got my imagination going. I was hooked!
Then along came TV programs like The Addams Family and my favourite, The Munsters. In my teenage years, Hammer House of Horror scared me silly when I watched The House That Bled to Death.
Of course I have to mention my love of Hammer Horror and their vampire films that were based on literary classics from authors such as Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu. My first introduction was watching a vampire getting beheaded in a graveyard. I thought that was bloody scary, but along came Mr Barlow and I was terrified! Scariest Vampire of all Time
I believe that there are things hidden that only a few of us will ever see or experience in our life times. The mundane amongst us will shrug that thought off immediately stating that it’s a lot of rubbish, but those of us who are open minded will at least question the existence. Take for example ghosts or spirits. I myself have experienced things that I don’t have an answer for and trust me, I am very skeptical.
When I was about the age of 5 or 6 yrs old, I used to play a game were I would lie face down on my bed and float through it to lie on the floor. The dust particles would tickle the insides of my nostrils due to my mother never cleaning underneath the bed. If I heard someone come up the stairs, I’d be transported back to my body in a flash.
I was always scared of going down the stairs in the old house in Heysham, near Morecambe as I used to think that a mad man would peer over the banister and come after me. I always used to edge down slowly with my back against the wall, facing the banister and once half way down, I would run the rest of the way. What made me this scared?
Years later my daughter had an imaginary friend and at the same time, I would often see a shadow darting past out of the corner of my eye. There was no explanation for the shadow.
I was once in a cemetery when I got a strong powerful feeling of being watched. I turned around and I can only describe it as a kind of heat shimmer moving past me, but I wasn’t terrified. Nervous yes!
What got you started with graveyard photography?
Back in 2004 when I visited St Peter’s Churchyard in Heysham to take some personal photographs, I never for one minute thought that my fascination with graveyard photography would keep on growing and growing. The graveyard photographs were simply for me to look at to bring back cherished memories of a place where I used to play at as a child. I must have always been strange as I honestly did go and visit the graveyard on my own to spend time reading the various headstones and be at peace.
My personal favourite headstones are my great granddad’s grave and one of a young couple who died together as their photograph was on their headstone. I remember asking my mother about them and I don’t remember what she said exactly, but I could tell that it was hard hitting for the community when it happened. Little did I know that this was the start of my fascination.
Not many people hang out in churchyards and if you do come across people tending to a grave, they are always polite and friendly. I would spend many times in the churchyard and up on the Barrows, because it was like an adventure, going that little bit further than the park at the bottom of the street. It was exciting and different!
Unfortunately, this fell apart for me at the age of 9 as my mother married a cruel and horrific wife beater who was also an alcoholic. I was ripped away from my childhood, both physically and mentally, hence returning after nearly 24 years away to take some personal photographs, which, as can be seen below, turned out to be rubbish that held no emotions whatsoever. This was the turning point when I realised that photography for me was about capturing emotions and not just a picture.
Are you a descendant of Old Chattox, a Pendle Hill Witch?
I have always been fascinated with the memory of my Grandad telling me that I was a descendant of Old Chattox (Anne Whittle) hung for witchcraft in Lancaster on 20 August 1612. I don’t know how true this is, but I tried to do my family tree once and I gave up due to a lack of personal information from old mother dear. If you would like to learn more about the Pendle Witches, I recommend the book above from Amazon.
What do you like to photograph most?
Photographing graveyards will always be my favourite past time and the older the better. When I first started out, I was highly influenced by Universal Horror Movies and Hammer Horror. Oh I loved those graveyard scenes, especially if they had a vampire lurking in the mist. I love to play about with light and shadows as it’s what cannot be seen that makes one nervous.
Memento Mori Photography
Since meeting Mark in 2013, I’ve been to Edinburgh and Ireland and especially in Edinburgh, they have the most beautifully carved headstones full of mortality symbols such as skull and crossbones and skeletons that just have to be seen. In Ireland, they have cadaver stones that depict the rotting corpse wrapped in a shroud to remind us to live life for today as tomorrow it may end. Memento Mori photography is my new found love of photographing graveyards.
Headstone Symbols and their Meanings
Amanda together with partner Mark Kneale have created a new website titled Headstone Symbols that will be regularly updated with their graveyard photography and articles about deciphering the meaning of headstones. There is also a dedicated memento mori symbols page that you can visit by clicking the image below.
Gothic Horror Photography and Alternative Portraits
If I’m inspired by something that has an element of Gothic horror creepiness or unknowing to it, then I’ll photograph it. This could be ruins, Victorian cemeteries, old Gothic graveyards or just a tree. It’s whatever catches my imagination. If you have a look at my various galleries, you will see what I mean.
In regards to alternative portraits, these are a great source of fun and intrigue as my daughter Kerry Sheree has teamed up with me following her training as a make up artist. I love to meet new people and I enjoy their reactions to their finished portrait. I don’t set out to create a vampire, werewolf or zombie. A lot of the time, my lens reveals ones true hidden soul, hence ‘What Does Your Soul Say About You?’
For further information please visit my alternative portrait service page
Do you have any other talents?
Memento Mori Frames on Etsy
This year (2017) I have launched a new store on Etsy. I have learned to carve skulls out of clay for reconditioned picture frames in order to make the perfect Memento Mori Picture Frames. Please take a look and help support my love of photography by making a purchase or telling your friends about me and my work.
I enjoy Tarot reading a lot as I get a lot of satisfaction out of a good reading. Empathy is such a strong energy that can boost ones own energies. Read Amanda’s post about Tarot and Fate.
What camera equipment do you own?
I currently own a Nikon D7100 and a D700 with a number of lenses to choose from. You don’t need an expensive camera to take a good photograph.
Who inspires your work?
I’ll never forget the time when I was flicking through channels, as you do when you have so many and you’re not even spoilt for choice, when I heard the deep tones of a man talking whilst walking through some creepy woods. This immediately got my attention so I flicked back and within a couple of minutes, I was in awe!
I thought it was just me who had a passion for this type of photography, for finding creepy places and telling stories about them. This TV program titled The Twilight Hour introduced me to the late Sir Simon Marsden who will forever remain the master photographer of this genre for all eternity. http://www.simonmarsden.co.uk
Further information about Amanda
Student Timothy P Flynn got top marks for his project about Amanda’s Work. Click here to read it!
Below is a collection of links to other websites featuring interviews with Amanda