By Lynne Jamneck
Danielle Tunstall is a horror photographer and graphic designer from the UK. Her art is featured in Weird Tales #360.
By accident. I always loved art but never wanted to be a photographer. I thought it was very boring. I got a camera in 2009 at the same time as I got a computer. For the first time ever I went on the Internet; as a stay-at-home mum I wanted a way to make money, so I started doing eBay. While browsing the net, I found a photography competition with great prizes (it was to photograph circles). To my horror, I came last out of over 300 people. I’m a very competitive type of person, so I went away photographing any thing and every thing. I won the next competition I entered :) After that, I entered two texture competitions and did rubbish. I thought, I need to think about this in a different way, so I bought three packets of mud face mask. At the time, they were £1 a packet and I really wanted four packs but couldn’t afford another one. I covered my boyfriend’s face in the mud, waited for it to dry and got him to snarl and pull faces. OMG — I came first, won a $500 prize, and the outtakes got spotted by another company who bought one for a price that paid for a brand-new camera (replacing the Sony in my mug shot with a Canon 500D; I recently purchased the Canon 5D mark II) and a new couch. (To this day it’s still the most I have ever been paid for one photo.) From that moment on I gave up cleaning and became a photographer!!
You describe yourself as a “horror photographer.” How does the aesthetics of horror influence your subject?
I see beauty in every thing from a dead bird to a fresh flower. To me, my job is to create photos so other people see beauty in the horror, a balance of calm and noise.
Have you always gravitated toward darker, destructively inclined imagery?
Not really, but it’s funny, even though I didn’t want to do photography, when I was little, I got my brother to put some tights on his head like a bank robber and point a gun at the camera. I was only little; wish I could find that photo. When I was little, I did want to be a bank robber when I grew up, not a princess or ballerina. So I suppose my mind sees the world in a different way to a lot of girls, and my photos are very masculine on the whole.
Zombies are hot right now. Your portfolio contains a number of striking zombie-inspired images. What is it about the walking dead that makes them so fascinating?
I’ve always preferred zombies to vampires, even before they were hot. I just love zombie films; I love the rules, I love the look, I love that they’re dead and still alive. In the UK we have only just started having zombie walks and Halloween, it’s not so huge a deal as in America. But we’re catching up. Hopefully, soon there will be zombie walks everywhere here, too.
How do you go about creating a relationship with your models in order to get them to convey what it is you want to photograph?
First we talk through ideas on the Internet so they know what they’re letting themselves in for. When they arrive, first thing is a cup of tea/coffee, or in some cases, something stronger so we can have a chat and get to know each other. My shoots are chaotic. I have no studio, I do all my shoots in the back garden, so models often have my backdrop falling on them and my crazy dog jumping up at them. If my kids are there, even more chaos, lol. To get the right look I say to the model, give me some aggression/show me some teeth/act like you want to fuckin’ kill me. I go on and on shouting, swearing until I get the right shot. I also pull faces and do the expressions for the model to copy. Only some models can do anger; for the ones that can’t we have no expression, or fear. Some are naturals.
What does the word “weird” conjure up for you?
My dreams and daydreaming, sleep paralysis, which I have always had. “Weird” also conjures up from my childhood Tales From the Crypt, Eerie Indiana and Twin Peaks, lol. And now, every time I hear that word I will think of this amazing magazine :)
Is there anything about photography that can be restrictive in terms of getting your perspective across?
The fact that I’m self-taught and rubbish with technology doesn’t help. I can’t even work the TV if the kids aren’t here so it’s a miracle I can use a camera and Photoshop. So I wish I knew more about the technical side. Also, things I see in my dreams are so vivid but impossible to recreate as I see them.
What is the one thing you want to photograph, but haven’t yet?
A person — well, three people really. Rick Genest the zombie boy, Rob Zombie and a UK magician called Dynamo. Then all my dreams would have come true and all my hard work will have been worth it. (Being a mum, I have to work into the night every night after being on my feet all day with kids, but I’m doing this to make a better life for them hopefully, and I’m exhausted!!!)
What’s next up for you? Any exciting projects you’d like to tell us about?
As long as all goes well, coming to LA to do stills photography for a new TV show based on an old comic called Hell Hunters. I will be photographing people like Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman and Lin Shaye to name but a few, so for me it’s amazing to be photographing people I have been watching in films for years. Also working on a few album covers, which is exciting, but about which I can’t really say anything ;)
Danielle Tunstall Online
Lynne Jamneck is a South African who lives in New Zealand. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Auckland, and has been short listed for the Sir Julius Vogel and Lambda Awards. Lynne has published short fiction in various markets, including Jabberwocky Magazine, H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, Fantastique Unfettered, and Tales for Canterbury. She edited the SF anthology, Periphery, and is writing her first speculative novel.