Happy Halloween, folks. Here’s a fun series. Photographer Neil DaCosta went to Oregon’s kookiest Halloween attractions during daylight closing hours. However, the scenes he discovered and shot on color film ended up looking as sinister as they appear when shrouded in darkness and staged for the frightened masses.
Week to week, DaCosta works long hours as a commercial and editorial photographer. But that doesn’t stop him throwing his camera gear in the car and heading out on his free weekends to shoot personal projects. Shooting stuff to scratch his creative itch is what has kept him sane. At least that was the case until last weekend when his excursions to into haunted houses, forests and corn mazes may have just driven him over the edge.
The ghastly result is a series called With The Lights On.
It all started harmlessly enough. DaCosta stumbled across a haunted trail walking his dog and reasoned that photographing halloween attractions during daylight hours would make for interesting pictures.
“When I was younger, I use to volunteer at a similar haunted trail and remembered how spooky it was even during the day,” he says.
Despite his ghoulish memories of younger experience, DaCosta thought a throughly mature and deliberate diurnal examination of the sites would reveal them for the low-budget, facade dependent constructions they are. DaCosta thought his images would draw back the curtain.
And, so, DaCosta trudged with his 4×5 camera to the West Linn Haunted Trail, the Fear Asylum, and The Haunted Maize — tourist spots all within half-an-hour of his hometown, Portland.
“I captured them empty, during off hours, with the lights on,” explains DaCosta. “But the dark humor I was envisioning, ended up being just more dark than humorous. Goes to show that some of our fears don’t rely on the dark to manifest.”
Photographing on site was eerie. Dead dummies swung and tarps billowed in the dank air. DaCosta got the jitters which were not helped by joggers in the forests who crept up while he was under the dark cloth of his medium format camera.
Those that operated the attractions were welcoming. “Everyone was in to it. Owners put a lot of work into these haunts and they are only seasonal. They are excited someone wants to photograph their hard work,” says DaCosta.
Like all good Halloween antics, DaCosta’s unsettling images jangle the nerves and provide relief and laughter.
Being a procrastinator, DaCosta has yet to decide on his costume for tonight, but he’ll be channelling photographer Joel Peter Witkin, who is his favorite macabre showman.
Happy Halloween folks! Enjoy these pics and then get out there, Trick ‘o’ Treat, and spook some people!