Welcome to the darkness, isn’t it beautiful?
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
If the Grim Reaper had a get-together with old pals within the setting of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, it would probably look like Brandon Thomas Carroll’s “Shepherd”. With a flare for dramatics, shrouded figures and occasional streaks of blood, Carroll’s compelling photography recalls the cultish, hauntingly beautiful images of rural America at the turn of the century.
Carroll’s evocative photographs combine fear and comfort in a discursive way. The subject of “I Gave You” appears as a frighteningly alluring figure, as it is unclear as to whether the subject is fearsome or fearful.
Similarly the concealed figure in “Untitled Final”, reminiscent in appearance to J.R.R Tolkien’s Ringwraiths, holds a bloodied and despairing person in a dubiously comforting embrace. A figure, all at once terrifying, and yet, assuming the role of sympathetic companion.
Both tender and dark, Carroll’s photography embraces the somber and morbid with a tasteful and sincere delivery. It may come to no surprise then, that it was Carroll’s own stroll through the shadows inspired his creative work.
It was only two years ago that Carroll recovered from an episode of anorexia that had plagued him for seven years. During the time since his recovery, Carroll “discovered an outlet for [his] emotions through dark art.” Though Carroll is quickly establishing himself within the photography community, it is interesting that, prior to his emergence from anorexia, he had “never picked up a camera.”
“War” portrays the ironic struggle of hiding a visible secret in plain view, exhibiting self-destructive behavior as a silent call for help. In this piece, a man walks toward a noose, his briefcase open and spilling its contents. On the foreground is a blood-smeared sign reads “HELP”. “I struggle with [anorexia] to this day, and continue to make [dark art] my outlet instead of taking it all out on myself.”
Attraction to the darkness and aversion for its destructive capabilities is an age-old spar, represented with visual perfection in “Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt”. In this piece, a woman floats motionlessly, entangled in strips of cloth that blinds and constrict her as her hair floats indifferently toward the surface. Seemingly unconcerned, she shows no sign of visible struggle, simply accepting a painful circumstance, painlessly, as though suffering were her surrender.
By sublimating self-destructive inclinations with creativity, Carroll projects his ongoing struggle within his images, and yet, while their voices may still be strained with the shadowed emotions that have haunted him for so long, their very existence depicts his ever growing liberation from them.