Interview: Rick Jones on his Brides of Horror portraiture

Rick Jones
Inspired by the folklore of Elizabeth Báthory, who is said to have bathed in the blood of victims to stay young. (Image credit: Rick Jones)

'The Brides of Horror' is an ongoing passion, which has so far been going strong for five years now. The project spawned from my love horror films, something that’s been present since my early childhood. Most of the iconic characters that I’ve always admired have been from this genre and I’m particularly a fan of the Bride of Frankenstein and other female horror icons. 

In my work I shoot portraiture of people as horror characters, zombies and vampires – 'The Brides of Horror' just seemed like a natural progression of this. It probably won’t ever be completed, as I just keep getting new ideas to shoot more.

Horror photographer and makeover artist Rick Jones (Image credit: Rick Jones)

I work in a large workshop, or studio area, where I can set up my own style of lighting – I can also make as much mess as I want, which is important to my work. I’m a spontaneous person and I feel more at home making things up as I go along. 

My main camera is the Nikon D810, and I also have a secondary camera, a Nikon D5300. I have 50mm prime lenses on both cameras, which I absolutely love using for portraiture. I do have a selection of other lenses but, honestly, I rarely use them. I also use a wide variety of continuous lighting, ranging from low-powered static lamps to high-powered video lights. I was lucky to be trained in lighting by a filmset lighting professional, and I spent a lot of time trying to perfect my own style. 

An old artistic motif that explores the relationship between youth and decay, life and death.  (Image credit: Rick Jones)

The D810 is a big part of my photographic style. That full-frame sensor really does make a big difference to my work! I bought the D810 as soon as I saw it, knowing that a full-frame camera would be a huge benefit to my work. I originally chose Nikon because it was the make of camera that a photographer friend of mine used. I got to play around with her gear and I absolutely loved it, so I bought into the brand easily. 

My book, Horrify Me, was something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, however, I had to wait until I had lots of interesting work to put into it. The book includes plenty of horror brides, as well as zombies, vampires, and of course, classic male icons such as Freddy and Jason.

Not a costume but a very long process of sticking small pieces of hair to a model until she was full wolf mode! (Image credit: Rick Jones)

Having operated my Horrify Me studio for a number of years now, and with a huge body of creative work as a result, the time felt right to collect some of the best work and assemble them in a book. I knew early on that I wanted to create a large, high-quality hardback packed with full colour photos. It’d be one of those ‘coffee table’ books, something people could dip into, and treat their eyes to all manner of gory flesh, rotting meat, and sexy horror! 

I’ve enjoyed every bit of the project so far! I love doing all the bizarre makeup and working with talented models who bring my characters to life. I also love fixing a moody atmosphere with lighting and editing.

This 12-hour makeup process featured a full body of gridded pins, each individually made and fixed into place. (Image credit: Rick Jones)

Stitch the horror together

The obvious hurdle for me is making the makeup and lighting work, but I’ve become pretty good at this these days. One of the main challenges I always face is achieving emotional authenticity in the photos, whether that’s sadness, anger, fear or terror. I want my work to look scary, or sombre and slightly otherworldly.

Selecting the images was also a frustrating process as I had to be a brutal editor. I could have filled the book three times over, if I’d allowed myself to be indulgent, but I persisted to compose a volume of measured quality. The book is bold too, not shy of showcasing some of the more horrific examples of my work. It has an entire horde of zombies, each individually crafted and telling its own story. 

The vampire section is more lavish, showing these dark creatures in all their majestic beauty and terrifying wildness. Demonic faces adorn the next chunk of pages and will likely cause sleepless nights, and there are plenty of old familiars from the first golden age of horror (Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman) through the American new wave horror of the 1980s (Freddy, Jason, Myers), all the way up to the modern era horror icons (Valak, The Ring).  

Rick Jones is a pro portrait photographer specializing in gory makeovers at his Horrify Me studios.

Rick’s Horrify Me book is a luxurious and masterful harvest of gory and terrifying horror character portraits. (Image credit: Rick Jones)

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Adam has been the editor of N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine for almost 12 years, and as such is one of Digital Camera World's leading experts when it comes to all things Nikon-related. 

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