Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Shaun Simpson: The Witching Hour

Catlin Bradbury

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out'
William Shakespeare

Matt Ryan

I don't know how many of you been to Halifax, but there is nothing like a Halifax Halloween. The Nova Scotia city is a hybrid of modern architecture weaved between and within historical stone buildings and homes steeped in the cities rich history.

In the middle of the city is Citadel Hill. First established in 1749, the present Citadel, completed in 1856, is officially called Fort George, named after King George II of Great Britain. The hill overlooks the cities downtown, and the Halifax harbour it was built to protect. Haligonians love their Halloween. In the late 1980s, Halifax Mardi Gras drew over 40,000 people to downtown Halifax each Halloween.

Halifax became known across the country as the place to party on All Hallow's Eve. It began spontaneously in the mid-80's and drew both partiers, families and people of all ages morphing into witches, ghosts and skeletons as costumed celebrants took over the downtown streets.

As the 80' rolled into the 90's, city officials, worried about the costs, and that the event was getting too big to police and control tried to curb the event. Citizens were encouraged to move to more structured and organized events. That didn't stop the more macabre inclined from heading downtown each October 31st. The numbers may be lower than they were, but the eerie energy remains as spookishly intense.

That is until midnight, when a few seconds, all gets quiet. Then, as the witching hour begins, the calmness becomes crazed. The next sixty minutes is the time of night when creatures, demons and the undead rise and for that one hour, are at their most powerful. It is the witching hour, that Halifax photographer Shaun Simpson captured with models Catlin Bradbury and Matt Ryan.

When one thinks of fitness models, sometimes overly bulked up and awkwardly moving, stiff models come to mind. This is not the definition of fitness that Catlin and Matt subscribe to. Having muscle is important, but if you can't use those muscles to stimulate movement, what purpose do they serve? Shaun describes Matt and Catlin as good friends who often train together at the gym. Shaun has shot with them both individually a number of times and one previous shoot with them together this past summer.

'We all have things we're struggling with; oppression, being closeted, a bully, or something intangible like debt and anxiety. Others might not be able to see what we're struggling with, but it can really drag a person down over time. The main message from the series is that we can struggle alone, or reach out and support each other. We can bully someone for the way they look and act, or realize that they’re just like us; doing the best they can to make it through another day. Bullying rips an already struggling person down, but compassion can strengthen us all together.'

Given's Shaun's theme of struggle, I think the witching hour acts as a interesting metaphor. Being pushed under for so long, that hour, those sixty minutes when you can rise up against that which has been dragging you down and seek support with together with others in the same struggle, makes Shaun's images of Matt and Catlin's rise that much more powerful. The fact that Halloween is also a time for fun and celebration is also not lost on the artist, Shaun shares that, 'even with all of that deeper stuff, there's the fun of shooting hot half-naked painted guys for Halloween!'

The message and the fun are both beautifully captured with the motion and flow expressed by Matt and Catlin. Their movements are both graceful and fanatic. Their bodies brim with excessive enthusiasm and and maybe just a hint of desperation. Both know their Halloween hallucination is a brief one. The Witching hour is just that, and both know they have just one hour to partake in their midnight dance with the devil.

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