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Ominous Cross Hot

Ominous Cross
Image Copyright: © Austin Cline,
 

To me, this image looks like something out of an old Italian or British horror movie — something with vampires or witchcraft. It's not quite black & white, but almost all of the color is drained out of it — almost like the color drained out of a victim or out of the face of someone scared out of their wits while watching such a film.

The color in the clouds is coppery-red, which I find reminiscent of dried blood and thus emphasizing the horror theme. The stone cross, partially tipped over, is either full of menace towards the viewer or about to be destroyed and thus something soon to be unavailable as a source of help to the viewer.

I have a confession to make: I love Gothic style imagery — but what defines "Gothic Style" in photos? I'm sure there could be a lot of debate over that, but this is how I see the genre: photos that tend towards the grotesque and potential horror themes, photos which display elements of decay, instability, and menace, photos which reflect or convey fear, and photos that convey darkness and insecurity.

Retro-style effects and photo filters are good ways to create Gothic style images because they take us away from the bright colors of our normal world and produce an uncomfortable atmosphere. Even when the effect is supposed to be nostalgic, there is still a level of discomfort involved.

Cemeteries and churches are great sources of Gothic images. Why is that? The use of old stones is surely important, even though they should convey feelings of stability. It's probably the association of heavy stone building with great age. Graveyards in particular have many objects displaying decay and instability. Once again, though, age is a factor — old monuments are much better subjects for these photographs than new gravestones.

Our cultural associations with them are another factor, but one that isn't always easy to explain. It's not hard to understand why graveyards would make us uncomfortable, but why should images of churches be able to produce similar effects? People are supposed to feel comfortable around churches, aren't they? Maybe this points to more conflicted feelings about churches and religion than people are consciously aware of.

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