Thursday, 21 April 2011

Interview: Amanda Norman

Horror Shock Lolipop recently had the great opportunity to interview Gothic Horror photographer Amanda Norman. Read on to find out about her inspirations, thoughts on modern horror, what drew her to horror photography in the first place and much more!

- First of all, thank you for giving us an interview. Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?

You're welcome and thank you for wanting to interview me.

Well, a lot of people who don't know me think that I'm strange due to my love of old graveyards and Victorian cemeteries. I like nothing better than to get my camera out and try to capture the spooky and eerie atmosphere that these places project and it's down to my love of classic Gothic horror. Hammer Horror introduced me to the vampire and ever since then, I've had a strange fascination with this alluring creature. I remember as a teenager wanting to become a vampire, just like one of those scantily clad beauties from Hammer Horror and then await my master, Count Dracula. It's quite funny looking back on it, but one evening, a friend and I were going to visit an old graveyard because it was foggy and I chickened out. Years later, I was in an old graveyard and I wanted to capture these thoughts and feelings to share with others, but it wasn't easy, but I'm learning all the time.

I've always been creative in one form or another. I used to love drawing and writing short stories and again the theme with the short stories was vampires.

Personally, I turn 40 this year and I'm a very proud grandmother. I really hope that the saying 'life begins at 40' is true, because I need a break from continually working too hard and not having anything to show for it. Family have told me to give up on trying to make money with my photography, but I can't give it up. I don't want to be an administrator working for an employer for the rest of my life.

- When did you get your first camera? What kind was it?

It was a cheap Fuji Finepix digital compact camera back in 1993.

- Why did you choose to concentrate primarily on photography, rather than the other artistic fields?
It was the challenge of creating an image with a camera and I love a challenge. A lot of people just point and click hence no emotions in their photography, but I've learned that you have to study the light and look for things that you primarily take for granted and therefore don't notice. I just love seeing the world via a lens and I like feedback as well. Photography is great for publishing and sharing on the Internet.

- What do you most enjoy about photography?

I love the responses I get from people who appreciate and enjoy my photography. Also, I get a buzz when I take a photograph and it turns out even creepier than I could have imagined.

Amanda Norman's first
horror portrait
- What first drew you to the more macabre side of art & photography?

My uncle takes the credit here for drawing me in, which was back in 2005. He pulled an absolutely crazy face that I instantly thought was freaky and when I published it on my website, I received a lot of feedback about it. As you can see from the image, it's not as good as my latest portraits, but it was the first one. Beats standard portrait photography don't you think?

- When shooting landscapes, do you scout out the area before hand to find specific places, or just take pictures of wherever you happen to wander?

I take my camera out whenever I go somewhere new. Often though, I can't find anything that would make a decent spooky image as my friends and family don't appreciate Gothic architecture and spooky themed places. The seaside is one of the worst places for me to visit although; I haven't visited the coast on a stormy day yet.

- You often show an eerier aspect of seemingly ordinary places. Are you ever surprised by what the camera shows you, or do you see the spooky side of the subjects, even before you look through the lens?
I think it's a mixture really. As I stated in my last answer, sometimes I can't find anything that would look eerie, then other times I'll half-heartedly take a photograph of something that has potential and when I view it on the computer I'm blown away. One good example to show here is the photograph that I call 'Haunted Tree'. This tree stood on the edge of a bland village graveyard, but the finished result after a few tweaks really surprised me.

- Out of the places you've photographed, which has been your favourite so far?
This is such an easy question to answer. By far my most favourite place is a cathedral in Sibiu, Romania.
My boyfriend and I we're lucky enough to tour Transylvania and my dream holiday lived up to expectations. I was surprised though that out of all the places I visited, the only reference to a vampire was a sign saying 'Vampire Camping'. It's a lovely country and this cathedral in Sibiu had some really old tombs with magnificent carved statues on the doors. I was in my element so much so that I held up the tour as I couldn't stop taking photographs. I could have spent a whole day in there and I was gutted that I had to leave after 10 minutes. I have to go back there if I win the lottery.

- If money and time were unlimited, where would be your dream location for photography?

Well, definitely I would go back to the cathedral in Sibiu, but I would also tour Eastern Europe as there are some churches that have the interior made out of skulls. I would also like to visit the catacombs of Paris and it's cemeteries.

- Apart from the different subject matter, what are the main difference between capturing a place/building and working with models?

Main difference is I don't have to speak to buildings and places hahaha! I can take all the time in the world when not photographing something that's alive providing that I'm not on a tour and holding people up. I've learned my lesson about that one.

- Although your portrait works are beautiful, they're not exactly glamour shots. Has anyone ever been unhappy with the results, or do they expect/want a horror-themed photo?

The majority of models for my dark portraits are friends and family or work colleagues who I've managed to talk into having their portrait taken and when I have visitors round, I love to get out the family album and make a remark about it being the Addams family album. I did once take a photograph of my sister and although I liked the finished result, she was absolutely horrified. She hated it! She couldn't even bring herself to look at it and I've promised her that I'll never reveal it, which is hard considering that I like it.

I have taken one portrait for a gentleman who requested one and he knew what he was getting as he had previously seen my work. The finished work was presented as a personalised movie poster, which I can't publish, but I can show you the portrait.

- You've said before that you're inspired by the promotional photos for classic horror films. Do you have any favourites?

I have two favourites that are amazing and both of these images play with shadows and light, which make the photograph. Totally dark and creepy don't you think?

The Exorcist (1976)

Nosferatu (1922)

- Do you think the visuals and atmosphere in modern horrors are as powerful as their predecessors? Why/why not?

Hmmm! I was inclined to say no straight off, but, modern horror is different with the introduction of CGI and 3D.
Graphic images of blood and guts, torturing and mutilation don't do it for me. I just can't watch these films simply because they are too horrific. I got halfway through Wolf Creek and couldn't take the suspense and horror any more so I turned it off. These types of film, although they are horror, are not for me.

A good classic horror will scare you by playing on your mind. The question of the creature's existence, i.e. vampires, demons and ghosts will play on your mind, but overall a good chilling story is the key and sometimes what you don't see scares you even more. I remember reading recently that in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the viewer hardly seen any of the killings. This film scared me stupid as it was what the director made you think. I must have sat and watched that film with my own individual thoughts terrorising me. This is a good classic horror movie. I'm afraid to say that modern horror is all about the CGI and torture and the studios are concentrating on making remakes. Give it a rest!

In fact there's only two modern horror movies that I would describe as good classic horror and not overdone with CGI and they are 'The Last Exorcism' and 'Paranormal Activity'. These are good, but not chilling.

One last comment about CGI, do we really need it to scare us in horror? Although Jaws isn't a horror movie, the suspense of this movie together with the musical score worked and it will remain a classic.

- Given your love of horror movies, would you like to branch out into short films some day?

I've thought about it sometimes, but no, it's not for me.

- Your jewellery also has a dark, gothic look to it. What inspires you when creating a piece?

I love the look of Goths and the style of the Victorian era, which inspires my work. I've always wanted to try creating Gothic jewellery and I'm only into my second month of creating it so I have lots to learn. I have a lot of followers on Twitter who create handmade jewellery and I thought I would give it a go. My future plans are to incorporate my photography into pieces of jewellery and therefore I need to learn how to create pendants that showcase my photography. I have to learn this skill and then learn how to attach the pendants to pretty necklaces, but I want to model them on the Victorian era. I've got my heart set on this, but I need to sell what I've already made in order to raise funds to pursue this next venture.

Over the past couple of days, I've created some charm bracelets for the very first time and I have modelled these on my love of classic Gothic horror. One was a skull and roses charm which I sold within hours of making it. I was so chuffed! The other one is based on classic horror with ghosts, bats, imps, witches and spider charms and the other is based on vampires with bats and roses. (

- How long, on average, does each piece take to create?

It could take from 15 minutes to over an hour, but with practice I'm sure it wouldn't take me as long as it does now.

- As well as jewellery making and photography, you also design and make websites via Umee Design. How and when did you start in that line of work?

Well, Umee Design ( ) has been setup due to the amount of requests I had following the design of my own sites. My boyfriend also enjoys design work and therefore we thought, well why not give it a go.
I don't actively promote this website, but it's there should anyone want to see examples of my work. Most importantly, I like to work with clients who require my help and knowledge, because there's so much out there and jargon that it's hard to know where to begin. I've also come across other designers who will create you a lovely website, better than what I can do, but they have a fundamental flaw and charge the Earth. A good designer will create a website around keywords and keyword phrases so that major search engines will pick it up. I don't want to see friends getting ripped off and therefore I will help them out.

- Are you able to put your own style into the designs, or are the websites very much a product of what the client wants?

I've been really lucky with my clients, who have trusted my ideas and designs, but sometimes they do have requests that I don't like and I have to give the client what he/she wants.

- Apart from being a photographer, jewellery maker and web designer, what would your ideal job be?

My ideal job would be earning a self-employed income from my photography and jewellery, but I need to be noticed first.

- Lastly, please could you give a message to fans of your work?

Firstly, if you've ever purchased any of my work, I would like to give you a huge thank you as you're helping me to support what I love doing.

Secondly, if you've ever provided me with feedback about my work, again, a huge thank you as there would be no point in continuing if nobody enjoyed it. I appreciate the support I gain from all my fans, whether it's simple feedback or placing a banner on your website or interviewing me.

I'm always available to contact on Twitter ( or via email through my website and I love a good chat.

For latest news about me, please visit my blog 'Inside the Mind of a Gothic Horror Photographer' ( and on there you will find links to all my other sites including Zazzle where I sell greeting and business cards that feature my photography.(*)

Many thanks to Amanda Norman for the interview & pictures!


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