Friday, 6 May 2011

Goth but not forgotten

A shock horror true confession

Aarghh!  This is a bit like therapy.  “My name is… and I was a goth”. Well, I’m saying that for effect really, as I was only a little teensy-weensy bit of one, for a rather short while, and a very long time ago.  It all seems far too earnest and po-faced for me looking back now but, hey, I was a young art student at the time.  (It’s amazing how much you can excuse with that line…)  Having touched upon the subject of horror in some of my previous posts, it seems rather fitting that I felt a fair amount of it when I uncovered some pictures from one of my first college photography briefs in the early ‘80s, so I’ve decided to exorcise those devilish demons here.  Then I’ll never touch the stuff again. Honest.

Firstly, a bit of background. These photo projects required you to load fiddly reels of film into your big, manual (and usually ancient, second-hand) camera, fuck about with focus settings, aperture and shutter speeds, take pretentious arty-farty pictures (never anything spontaneous – you were too busy twiddling knobs) and later develop your shots personally in the darkroom.  The college darkroom was a sacred place, with its ‘Do Not Enter’ sign on the door and a characteristic chemical smell, where you worked in the duskiness of a dim red light, preferably alongside a student of the opposite sex with whom to practise some coy flirting. As anyone who still uses a darkroom knows, it was quite a long-drawn out process (and I’m not just talking about the flirting…) but there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be found as you watch your earlier vision start to become real in its tray of development solution – just seeing it appear and get gradually clearer like something supernatural is quite magical.  I’m reminded of scenes from detective series and films like ‘Blow Up’ –  the moment a picture starts to form on the paper is so exciting and sometimes surprising. Luckily there was nothing macabre lurking in any of these images, although in the case of this project I might have been grateful for it (purely for aesthetic reasons, you understand…)

I like the way the tear in the photo looks like a lightning bolt…

So yes, these were the times of a very early interest in, well, I seem to recall that nobody actually labelled it ‘goth’ back then, perhaps just occasionally ‘gothic’ - but there were a lot of references to the associated music being ‘post-punk’ (and it seemed like a natural progression from my earlier punk days) - even the term ‘positive punk’ was used.  ‘Positive punk’ does sound ironic considering most songs were so dark and doomy… We liked bands such as Bauhaus, the Danse Society and Sisters of Mercy, and people who wore a lot of black and looked a bit vampiric.  Vampiric and gothic is not an easy look to achieve when you’re fair-haired and have a tendency to go pink (it’s far too healthy looking) but cosmetics help and I think I probably got through a whole eyeliner pencil just for the make-up here: Siouxsie-style eyebrows, Alice Cooper-ish death-mask eyes and black lips too.  It also came in handy for drawing that logo which was for a (non-existent) band.  C H stood for Critically Headless, which is pretty good as far as goth band names go, you must admit!  As so often is the case it’s much easier to think up a name than to write or play an actual song…  Oh dear.  And being the ‘model’ here I could at least get someone else to fiddle with my calibrations and press my camera button. I should also add that this wasn’t my usual daily look for a trip to the corner shop to buy a packet of Trebor Mints.  (I’d have put a top on.)

Because this was meant to be an art project rather than just pure self-indulgence (and perhaps secretly a potential record cover for a future Critically Headless single, ‘Evil Dolls Are Eating My Flesh’..?), we were encouraged to be experimental, so this second photo was created by developing another picture over an over-exposed version of the first one.  The intention was to make it look, well, ghostly, of course. 

Yeah I know it’s crap but hopefully laughable crap…

The other picture was taken in an overgrown disused graveyard (well, naturally) - I’m sure that’s a discarded Tizer can or something showing through the undergrowth on the left.  I think that was the only surprise lurking in this image, so no ‘Blow Up’ storylines to be had here. With no such thing as Photoshop these pictures did turn out to be really bad, but I quite like the fact that the only clicking needed then was that of the camera button.  And the sound of the darkroom door closing tightly behind me as I waited to see what might develop.  Sadly, nothing much ever did.

Phew…. I feel better for that.  I think. 
The shame will pass.

(And finally – I just realised this does still sound good to my ears!  It’s short, choppy and upbeat.  Crack that whip!)


  1. I still get the urge to play Lagarjia Nick from time to time and do a solo chicken dance round the living room, until one of my joints seizes up or my wheezing drown out the music ;o)

  2. Hello Yve - oh you've started something now! - I might well be tempted to chicken dance round the living room myself tonight with said song on repeat play (and delve into my odds and sods box for some black lace and silver bangles..)

  3. Ha, found it!! Great pics and perfect for 'positive punk' (love that) band.....'Critically Headless' (there's a name). It's funny, there are many parallels to my Sisters of Mercy post. I was never going to make a good goth though, I wasn't really into make up, too much into Run DMC and just found it all a little bit silly. Though my girlfriend at the time was trying to be a Goth so I had to make allowances in the name of love.

    1. Thanks, flycasual! It did all get a bit silly didn't it...?! Like you I was never going to make a good goth, mainly because I've got the wrong colouring and I'm far too smiley... could never quite get the hang of looking miserable and mysterious enough!


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