Beyond Photography: ‘Deadlock’ – Accompanying fictional backstory

Fifty-two years, over half a century, nearly two-thirds of an average human lifespan, present but absent. For what was once seen as just, has today been revealed a hideous betrayal. Today we join Lewis, as victims of a sick, twisted and psychopathic liar. A liar not only capable of convincing a son to murder his beloved mother, but a liar capable of deceiving a nation. We will not gratify this psychopath by airing his video, but we will disclose its contents.

Henry Joel Allcraft, father of Lewis Joel Allcraft and widower to Susan Joel Allcraft, today made a deathbed confession in which he revealed himself to be the twisted mastermind behind what has since become known as the ‘Crimson and Clover murder’. In a video in which he can been clearly seen to take pleasure in the recounting of events, Henry has told of how the night of October 17th, 1958 was meticulously planned; How he told Lewis to dress up smart as, ‘he was going to have a meal… some much needed father and son time… and a night he’d forever remember’. Meanwhile telling his wife he was taking him camping, in the very woods she would later be murdered in.

He has revealed how he told Lewis he had to stop to check a rear tyre, before forcing him to consume a powerful hallucinogenic, taping his mouth shut and binding his hands. Drugged and highly vulnerable, Lewis was then told an elaborate lie by his father, that there was a witch who haunted the woods in which Henry had taken him, and that the witch deceived her victims by pretending to be a loved one, in Lewis’s case, his mother. Henry continued, telling Lewis that any minute now she would start screaming his name, that he had to follow the screams and kill her, failing so, his real mother would die.

Henry then revealed how he made Lewis run out into the woods alone, before calling Susan and telling her Lewis had gone missing in the woods whilst camping. Grinning, proudly, Henry then recalls how Susan drove out to the woods and screamed her son’s name, just as he’d hoped. The rest we all know. But Henry’s wickedness did not end that night, as he revelled in speaking of how he recited the events to Lewis every evening he visited, as Lewis lay in a permanently ‘locked-in’ state, in the sickening hope Lewis could hear and was forced to relive them.


Beyond Photography: Project research – Nadja Sveir

Consumed by whom of which captured them, Sveir’s subjects are stripped of their identity, their story and their purpose; instead functioning as proxies, surrogates for the mind behind the camera.

With the distinct subtlety (seemingly an unknowingness on the photographer’s behalf) in which it is achieved, I initially found the images to be alluringly intangible. There existed a strangeness, an uncanniness that transcended and permeated all of which were overtly recognisable sources of such, one that was not merely the sum of their subjects, distortions, moods etc. or seemingly any conscious act on the photographer’s part. Instead, one that can be seen as an unintended emergent property of all conscious constituent components, of the subconscious drives behind the image’s, decisions made and way in which the shots were compiled. The images stories do not belong to that of their subjects, for they merely play host to the photographer’s introspections, the photographer’s story.


Beyond Photography: Project evaluation

It is indeed the characteristic of the sadist that he humiliates his object and then − or thereby − satisfies it.
– Walter Benjamin

After decades of inconclusive theoretical polemics, discourses and countless failed attempts in reconstituting the medium’s specificity, photography today wholly exemplifies an object that has been satisfied by its humiliation. George Baker in his essay, ‘Photography’s expanded field’ paraphrases Rosalind Krauss noting, “[Photography] is no longer the privileged middle term between two things that it isn’t. [Photography] is rather only one term on the periphery of a field in which there are other, differently structured possibilities.” It is precisely these ‘differently structured possibilities’ that the Beyond Photography unit tasked us to explore, experiment and understand.

Through its humiliation, photography has been realised as a medium defined by its indefinability, defined by its lack of specificity and no longer is it placed in a stranglehold by the inadequate defines that sought to draw distinguishing lines between it and other visual mediums (such as film). I could write an essay on this subject, I know this because I have, so I shall stop before I find myself rewriting it here.

Speaking of which, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of. As with all previous projects, I set to getting the essay completed first and did so within the last few days of October and first few of November (taking advantage of the ‘free’ time so kindly handed to me by a bout of flu). It is a highly complex subject, with many courses of attack and many sources of text to bemuse myself with, from intellects of far greater ability than myself. And so I found myself on familiar ground, where freedom of choice teamed up with my indecisiveness and left me with what felt like no choice. I feel I am far better when given a clear and defined route of action, for otherwise I find myself to be consumed by panic and self-doubt, but I eventually found my footing.

My visual exploration of the unit’s interests found a home in film. A rather curious choice from someone who is typically able to count a year’s yield of film viewing on one hand and TV shows on the other. Despite this lack of interest in viewing film, I did have an interest in producing film (past-tense is key here). As I sit here and take a retrospective look back for the source of my interest in film, I joyfully reminisce on the plays I and my siblings performed for our parents every Christmas. Remembering the pages of script I wrote out, the costumes and stories I imagined, and how intensely proud I felt when it all came together. Though all this was a long time ago now, I still feel it was this primitive childhood exploration of performance, script writing and storytelling that was stored away in a dark, desolate area of my subconscious, impatiently tapping its fingers on a table, waiting for me to pay it attention again. And so I answered its calls (or taps) in Deadlock, an introspective look at my struggles with my anxiety disorder, depression and general angst.


Deadlock synopsis:


‘Falling, falling, falling. Weightlessly, hopelessly, you cower, coil and brace awaiting impact, salvation. Deadlock is a veritable nightmare. A spiralling, helpless, dread-filled fall of a nightmare that follows the tragic events that lead a son to murder his beloved mother. Chaotic in construction, chaotic in narrative, Deadlock seeks to mislead, confound and disorientate its viewers. Functioning as a perplexing metaphorical manifestation of the very real and deeply oppressive anxiety that governed its creation. Ultimately, Deadlock in all its chaos and confusion, in all its misleading, hopes to evoke exactly that. To leave the viewer full of doubt, unsure of themselves, of what they’ve just seen, of where the true direction lies.


Its key purpose is in eliciting a specific response, this is what I focused on with the film, after initial investments in filming and storytelling failed to reach the heights I had hoped. A huge source of inspiration for this focus was sourced from Anne Charlotte Robertson’s, ‘Five year diary’. Anne used film to document her life, specifically her struggles with mental illness, the camera acting as a filtered embrace from reality, a means of ‘distributing and extending’ her control (or will) of them via ‘machines and technologies’. To quote myself again from my piece on her work:


‘Film grants Robertson, not only the ability to establish control in the understanding of her experiences (upon review), but also establish it by means of disconnect from the present, at the very moment she documents them her camera acts as an aperture to a better future. Allowing her to view the present as if reviewing it in the future, as if it was a memory of something she’d already overcome.’


In my exploration of how and by which means I am able to accurately elicit the same sense of anxiety/angst/self-doubt and the confused mind that accompanies any of which, Deadlock acted as a means of introspection for myself. It forced me to take an extended look at my situation, something I otherwise actively try and do avoid, and form a deeper understanding of how it is I really feel and why. It seems that in trying to explain my situation to others, I have also explained it to myself, how cheesy.

Ultimately, filming was a very difficult, nerve-wracking and frustrating task. Ideally, the whole project would have been shot in one or two full day’s worth of shooting, instead it was shot in dribs and drabs over three months. This made the tasks of keeping track of what I’d done, scene continuity and maintaining idea clarity, a constant struggle – tasks that were also subjected to a greater deal of overthinking and worry, during dead-time. Ideas, storyboards, plans, notes, directions were all subject to incessant picking, changing, scrapping, reinstating etc. etc. ‘Free’ time is a worriers worst enemy. But, I guess the immense amount of stress and anxiety this ‘free’ time presented me with, is befitting of the film’s intentions and may even prove beneficial to my task of eliciting an accurate experience of my struggles with anxiety.

By chance, I happened upon Binaural audio a few weeks before the project began; an audio recording technique that perfectly lends itself to the creation of rich, impactful experiences. It was in knowledge of this that I constructed my film and everything from its story, to its meaning, to the way it played, was assembled around and informed by the audio. Watching examples of this audio technique online, you’ll quickly come to the realisation that it works best when the audio is the sole stimuli. Something I covered within my research:


Binaural audio is at its best without visual input, allowing the listener to fully envision themselves within its space of origin. Though the effect still persists when accompanied by visual stimulus, it is rather diminished and the intensity of the listeners experience is never fully realised. I’d like to liken it to trying to imagine the world described within a book as you read, only for it to be drowned out by a screaming child on the train.


It is for this reason, that the key storytelling sections of binaural audio present within my film, are played to a black screen that continually interrupts the film throughout its course.

Lastly, my still images. I originally hadn’t planned to include any still images within my work and after speaking with lecturers on the matter, was aware that it was perfectly acceptable not to. However, with the films future on numerous occasions, questionable at very best, I sought a plan B in the combining of audio and still images. Searching for the fantastical edging on disquieting, I looked to artists such as Rosie Anne Prosser, whose work I have greatly admired and followed for some time. My images share the same dream-world present in my film, with some divulging further clues and others providing a ‘behind the scenes’ role. Three of the images feature subjects in myself. With great difficulty, I ran frantically and shot blindly in the 10 seconds afforded to me by the camera’s self-timer. One of the images, simply entitled ‘Guilt’ (below), was my first ever attempt at combining two images using Photoshop – the end result being far better than I expected myself to be capable of.



Conclusively, the Beyond Photography unit has widened the periphery of my work within the field. Never having expended much attention on the interweavement of photography and other mediums, this unit was a much needed nudge to do just so. The vast possibilities of binaural audio, especially as I sit here today in a world on the cusp of a virtual revolution, truly excites and awes me. It is a medium I will unequivocally be exploring, experimenting and creating with again and cannot wait to do so. I feel I have discovered something that will be of great significance in my future works, something to define myself by and distinguish my work with.

Beyond Photography: Project research – Psychiatric hospital (Binarual audio)

Movies and pizza, strawberries and cream, pancakes and maple syrup, Christmas and satanic rituals, bad analogies and me.

Some things are just made for one another. Virtual reality and horror are two of those things. And so, if phantom Italians suffocating you with a plastic bag, very nearly cutting your ears off and shaving a suspicious shape into the back of your head wasn’t already traumatising enough, then you my lionhearted friend, should pay a visit to the psychiatric hospital!


A seemingly staff-less psychiatric hospital at that, where patients are free to run amok, use kitchenware for percussion and generally make as much noise and mayhem as they can. Privileges that unfortunately for you, aren’t taken for granted. I loved the disquieting unpredictability of Psychiatric hospital – Madness, I never knew what was coming next or when I’d be hit with a bowel moving jump scare. A virtue that bestows our virtual experience with a profound sense of dread, angst and us with an eagerness to pause the video and rip off our headphones like the big baby we are (apart from you, of course). I also particularly enjoyed the lack of certainty of what was happening when it did happen, and whether what was happening was actually happening at all. For the subject we are oh so lucky to embody is presumably a patient of the psychiatric hospital (or the hospital is in fact staffed and a staff member is having a real bad day), and therefore it wouldn’t be a stretch for the noises that are heard to be the delusions of a mentally ill man.

Unpredictability and uncertainty play a large role in my film, Deadlock. For precisely the reasons outlined above; to provide further sources of dread and angst. The voice acting and noises captured for this piece were of an impressively high standard and will help sculpt the audio present within my film.

Psychiatric hospital – Madness

Beyond Photography: Project research – Binaural audio & Virtual barber shop

Please take a seat, two men brandishing the most unapologetically stereotypical portrayals of the Italian accent you’ll ever hear will be with you shortly. Enter Manuel and his brother, Luigi, the hairdressing brothers (not to be confused with Mario and Luigi, the plumbing brothers). A questionable duo, whose service includes a live guitar solo, the placing of a plastic bag over your head and a worrying lack of hair cutting.

It’s all fine though, for this satirical hairdressing experience isn’t meant to be real to life (that’d be very boring), it is in fact a tech demo and a rather brilliant piece of marketing for a binaural audio company. Over the course of the video, our ‘Italian’ friends move around us left to right, front to back, near to far. It is an uncanny, disquieting experience. So very real in fact, that I frequently found myself wincing and cringing to noises that were oh so there in the room around me.

Binaural recording is the wizardry that facilitates the reconstruction of the original 3D sound space around the listener. By placing two omnidirectional microphones at the entrance to the ear canals (either on a mannequin head complete with flesh-like human ears or in the form of earbuds containing microphones that can be worn) the microphones are separated by the human headspace. This is vital, and it is not just a case of separating the microphones by the width of the average human head, the solid headspace in between is essential in reconstructing a realistic 3D sound space, essential in accurately replicating the, ‘minute differences in cues or sound intensity and arrival time from two open ears’. For the solid mass that is the human head sculpts the sound, just as the ridges and folds of the human ear do too. Despite how seemingly insignificant these variations are, they are essential to the human brain in its task of accurately determining the locality of their source.

And much akin to how our brain creates a 3D image from two 2D images (stereoscopy – see image one), the brain combines the two separate channels (left and right) and constructs a third dimension, placing the sounds within the space in which we occupy.

‘Virtual barber shop’ – Video


Image one – ‘Stereoscopic views of the Boston Water Works Sudbury River Conduit from Robert Dennis’s collection of stereoscopic views’


Binaural audio is at its best without visual input, allowing the listener to fully envision themselves within its space of origin. Though the effect still persists when accompanied by visual stimulus, it is rather diminished and the intensity of the listeners experience is never fully realised. I’d like to liken it to trying to imagine the world described within a book as you read, only for it to be drowned out by a screaming child on the train.

This is why the binaural audio featured within my horror short, ‘Deadlock‘, will be played to a black screen that continually interrupts the video.


Beyond Photography: Project research – ‘Five Year Diary’

‘Begun in the early 1980s and running to over thirty eight hours of Super 8 film, Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Year Diary stands as one of the major works of diary film-making. The films are an intimate and exhaustively narrated chronicle of her daily life in Framingham, Massachusetts and her battles with depression, paranoia, and borderline schizophrenia. Over the course of the Diary, Robertson unflinchingly documents nervous breakdowns and hospitalisations, her obsessive crush on Doctor Who actor Tom Baker, her battles with weight, the side effects of prescription medication and the death of her three-year-old niece, Emily. Though often painfully raw and emotional the diary is not entirely bleak but leavened with self-awareness and humour it becomes a redemptive form of self-therapy which for Robertson ultimately tells the story of a mind’s survival.’


‘Five Year Diary’ is rather curiously, a body of work that in fact spanned 15 years of Anne Charlotte Robertson’s life, not five as its titling would suggest, beginning in 1981 and concluding in 1997. It provides a profoundly intimate insight into her complex struggles with numerous mental health problems, including manic depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia and borderline schizophrenia. Though it lays in stark contrast to the modes in which I have explored my struggles with anxiety (an explicit documentary of real experiences, as opposed to my fictional, metaphorical representation of real experiences) I drew a deep affinity with the significance the outputting and exploration of her experiences through art had on her ability to manage her illnesses.

Lisa Blackman in her essay, ‘The dissociation of anxiety’ speculates that Robertson’s documenting and exploration of her illnesses through the act of filming allows her to, ‘displace self-control or will as being a distinctly human capacity’. Robertson’s filming then, to paraphrase Blackman can be seen to allow her to, ‘…distribute and extend control (or will) via machines and technologies’. Robertson herself in her synopsis of Five Year Diary, notes, ‘Making my diary has literally saved my life; it is an inspiration to others, that “examining one’s life can help make life worth living”.

Film grants Robertson, not only the ability to establish control in the understanding of her experiences (upon review), but also establish it by means of disconnect from the present, at the very moment she documents them her camera acts as an aperture to a better future. Allowing her to view the present as if reviewing it in the future, as if it was a memory of something she’d already overcome.

The strange temporal displacement and subsequent respite and solace from the present kindly provided to us by the camera, is something I’m sure many can relate to. It reminds me that my project is not only an act of eliciting my experiences in the viewer, but also an act of self-examination and understanding, and subsequently of self-control. Furthermore, it is also a means of disconnect, a welcome respite from my feelings in the present via the vicarious experiencing of future feelings, upon reflection, from a better place.