Exploring the genre of of “Body Horror,” and how I used Photoshop and Poetry to do it.
Greetings, Antiwordpressants. Here I present my first ever Adobe Photoshop project. But first a little background as to why it happened.
I’m inspired by scary things. I don’t believe in ghosts, ghouls, anthropomorphized little grey aliens, or just about anything generally termed, “Paranormal.” I am a filthy skeptic. But I love any art involving those things. I love all horrors but I’m particularly interested in Body Horror which, according to Wikipedia, “is horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.”
In my opinion, one of the greatest scenes in movie history containing an element of body horror is the hobbling scene in the movie adaption of Stephen King’s Misery. Kathy Bates’ character shatters the protagonists feet with a sledge hammer. In that one scene there are many horrific experiences happening simultaneously. There’s torture horror, the psycho in the room, desperation, no hope of escape, and human cruelty. But it is the mutilation of the body that interests me most here. Can you just imagine? Having your feet destroyed, shattered beyond repair, taken away from you. It sends shivers down my spine every time I think about it.
Other examples of body horror themes are everywhere. The Saw movies are heavy with mutilation. The disfigurement doesn’t have to be inflicted by another human though. In the movie Cabin Fever, for example, a bunch of students fall ill to a virus that makes them vomit blood and disfigures their skin. But the genre extends more broadly into transformation of the body for reasons horrific. Think of Jeff Goldlum in The Fly. The horror derives principally from the protagonist transforming into a human-fly monstrosity, and the transformation of his behaviour in tandem.
I’m starting to notice that body horror is filtering into my art works. In part one of my recent poem called The Property Market, a mutilation is featured, though not of the human variety.
The Birds twitch.
Stolen feathers, bloodied stumps,
Flavours of the season.
You can read the poem in it’s entirety by clicking here.
Perhaps its not so surprising then that the first piece I felt compelled to make with Photoshop was a body horror piece. I had discussed the idea with a friend who showed me a glimmer of what could be possible using image manipulation. In a just a few moments, he turned a photo of me into something creepy, which you can look at here:
After that I set to work transforming myself and a friend beyond recognition. I took this photo:
And with much pain, much effort, and a LOT of dependency on the smudge tool, I made this. I give you, The Wood-Faery’s Corruption.
I wanted to make something using the pixels already in the photo of my friend and I. To that end I added no new paint, or new images, bar the background forest which I took from a stock images site you can find by clicking here. I used the content aware move tool to duplicate fingers and the greens of the beer bottle, hence the appearance of an entire left hand in the edit that wasn’t in the original. I used smudge to generate everything from the vines, the contortions of the faces, and new textures on all objects. And I used the sponge tool to saturate or desaturate the various colours present to generate new ones. It took me absolutely ages and much heartache to get finished.
It was my first time using photoshop so inevitably it’s a bit rough around the edges. It could glow better, it could have proper shadowing, the different components could blend together better. My biggest criticism is that in terms of photo subject matter, it confuses the eye a little. It’s hard to tell where the viewer is supposed to look at first, is it the vines or the face or what have you? But I’m very happy with it as first attempts go. Moreover the potential of photoshop as an avenue to explore in the creation of body horror is just starting to become clear.
Watch this space to see how this exploration of the body gruesome develops in me.
Can you think of a time when the idea of bodily mutilation or transformation horrified you in art? How did it make you feel?