It’s that time of year again: the seasonal festival of Halloween is upon us.
All Hallows’ Eve, Allhalloween, Hallowe’en or All Saints’ Eve? The festival has many names and is observed in many countries on 31 October each year.
It marks the eve of All Hallows’ Day, a Western Christian feast, and begins the observance of Allhallowtide, a three-day observance to remember the dead. While it is believed by some that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, there is also the idea that many of its traditions actually originated from ancient Celtic festivals.
Halloween in the media
Whatever your belief in its origins, there are certain activities and images that have become synonymous with Halloween, particularly in the Western world: costumes, pumpkins, trick-or-treating, visiting ‘haunted’ attractions, telling ghost stories and watching horror films.
Indeed, our cultural understandings of this festival are perhaps largely shaped by what we have seen in media depictions. Films on the subject of Halloween offer visions of ghosts, gore, hauntings and trick-or-treats gone wrong.
But it is often more compelling to see evil lurking in the ordinary and the everyday. As Dr Ari Mattes notes, “even though evil doesn’t exist in the real world, it can be an exciting, compelling concept around which to build and structure art.
“Films like Halloween (and Wes Craven’s later A Nightmare on Elm Street) offer a layered, culturally rich critique of American suburban conformity”.
Such themes perhaps have less to do with the festival’s religious origins and more to do with iconic imagery with fascinating connotations, at least in popular culture.
As well as blockbuster Hollywood films and independent “slasher” horror movies, Halloween also holds lucrative and exciting prospects for more local media businesses.
Our own video solutions have been commissioned by Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, in line with their annual Halloween attraction, Scarefest. Visitors get to enjoy rides in the dark, live shows and scare mazes, which we successfully captured for the theme park.
More recently, we time-lapsed construction of Alton Towers’ most recent addition to their roller coasters – the Wicker Man – which is sure to light up Scarefest with its incredible flaming facade.
Whether capturing Halloween events or themed activities, these things are great subjects for photography and time-lapse photography.
Such events and activities typically take place after dark, in which case it means that capture often involves low-level lighting. This can be particularly challenging when shooting still images but following the basics of photography can help to overcome such hurdles.
As an exciting extension of photography, time-lapse is also a popular way of capturing this time of year in all its spooky detail.
This video (below) by Steven Richter, for example, recreates a model bust of Michael Myers from Halloween – the 2018 film sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic.
Although time-lapse capture accelerates change, it still enables the intricate details that go into artistic processes such as this to be showcased.
Indeed, media offers another way of experiencing, or re-living, seasonal trends and popular imagery but also gives such cultural artefacts a new lease of life even after Halloween has been and gone.