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Thursday, January 13, 2011

April A. Taylor Interview

Dan Barkasi

Photography is a constantly evolving artistic form, with many variants and styles being perpetuated today. This style of art is sometimes overlooked, but is one of the most intriguing and vivid forms of personal expression.

The genre of horror – and zombie lore in our case – is a picture-perfect setting for some extreme and uniquely creative work. One of the best examples this writer has seen is the work of April A. Taylor, a photographer from Detroit, Michigan. The owner of this site and myself came upon her work at the recent Steel City Con, a toy and memorabilia convention in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, this past December.

As you can see by looking at her work (, Ms. Taylor has both a keen eye for fashioning a haunting setting, as well as the ability to create fine pieces of art from these scenes. Her style is one upon itself, to which has resulted in a large collection of stunning work.

This is somebody who takes her work very seriously, as evidenced by the professional grade prints of her work in which she sells. Many artist prints are made on low-quality paper with little lasting quality – not so here. Her prints come on archival-quality paper, ink and matting, which means that they’ll last longer than our lifespan. This being the case, these prints cost more than some, but the price difference more than makes up for it in quality. Being witness to these pieces in-person, the quality difference is blatantly obvious, and it would be nice to see more pieces presented with such care and excellence. These are keepers that are guaranteed to last, folks.

To coincide with the contest we’re running this month, we also got the opportunity to interview Ms. Taylor. Her many inspirations, artistic process, as well as present and future projects are discussed in what is an in-depth portrait of a highly talented artist. Enjoy, and be sure to check out her many works.

Zombies & Toys: First off, how did you get started into creating art?

April A. Taylor: I have spent almost my entire life writing and taking photographs and have always felt a strong urge to create. About a year and a half ago, I started combining novel/short story ideas with the photography, thereby utilizing Illustrative Photography to tell a story without the usage of words.

ZT: What drew you towards the horror genre, both as an artist and a fan?

AAT: Horror was my first love. As a small child, I had posters of Freddy Krueger on my walls and I was reading Clive Barker by the age of nine. Michael Jackson’s Thriller video was also quite pivotal; I saw it at the age of six and instantly fell in love with zombies. As an artist, I strive to make social commentary through my pieces and horror is a natural fit for this. It also gives me an outlet for my blood soaked imagination.

 ZT: What/whom has been your largest inspiration?

AAT: The horror genre in general has been a large inspiration (particularly the work of Clive Barker), but also the city of Detroit and its rampant decay has inspired much of my work, as has the creative collaboration that I share with my models (especially Shannon Waite, who, for example, wrote the poem that She’s Dead was based off of).

ZT: Your photography is very sensory – especially in your use of color. What drew you towards this style?

AAT: The majority of horror/Dark Art uses more muted tones in order to convey a feeling of darkness and dread. I chose to go the opposite route for the majority of my pieces, for I feel that infusing my work with bright, vivid colors makes it harder for the viewer to look away and also harder for the viewer to think of it as just being a photograph. I intend for the pieces to feel real, as if you’re witnessing the events taking place right in front of you.

ZT: How many pieces have you done thus far?

AAT: Countless pieces… there are nine Dark Art sets to date, with multiple pieces in each, and I also have a wide collection of Fine Art and model pieces.

ZT: What is your creative process for your shots?

AAT: Generally speaking, it starts with one of two things. Either I – or a model – will throw a bunch of ideas out and see which one sticks or, if that’s not working, I literally just close my eyes. I have an imagination that borders on ridiculousness; I can close my eyes and instantly see vivid images and entire storylines. Once the basic concept is locked in, location, costuming, props and makeup comes next. Then when we’re on set, the Dark Art pieces are treated just like a horror movie in that the actions you see captured in the photos are really happening (with the exception of people being actually killed, of course) instead of just being posed.

ZT: Did you have any formal training, or are you self-taught?

AAT: I’m self-taught.

 ZT: What was your primary inspiration for the "Forest of the Undead" series of photographs? The depiction of the zombie in particular was spectacular.

AAT: Zombies are one of my favorite things, but before “Forest of the Undead,” I’d only captured them via things such as zombie walks. I wanted to put my own spin on it, while still paying homage to the classics. The decision to have only one zombie and one victim (who was someone that had been important to him in his pre-zombie life) was based on the idea of watching the zombie grow, so to speak.

ZT: Do you have any plans and/or desire to create another zombie-themed series?

AAT: Absolutely! In fact, there will eventually be a sequel to “Forest of the Undead” that depicts what happens after the zombie gets a chance to feed on several victims, thereby giving the name of the series more meaning.

ZT: The "Post Apocalyptic Princess" series was one of my favorites. Where did the idea for this stem from? The usage of the gas mask was particularly poignant.

AAT: The basic concept, and the first time the phrase “Post-Apocalyptic Princess” was said, came up during a dinner at Coney Island with the model (Raechael Hardin). I wanted to use a gas mask for visual interest and to also represent what it might look like if a nuclear war were to occur, leaving just one person left on earth. Her experiences/adventures in that set are meant to capture the wide range of emotions that one would feel in such a situation, because as much as there would be loneliness and despair, there would also be moments of playfulness and joy. In many ways it’s a testament to the human spirit while also cautioning against a possible future.

ZT: Your photos of Michigan Central Station were fantastic, especially for somebody like myself who enjoys architectural shots like these. Do you have any other ideas for similar projects?

AAT: Yes, both locally and abroad. Abandoned buildings are endlessly fascinating to me, both for their beauty and what they say about us as a society.

ZT: If you could shoot any spot in the world, what would it be?

AAT: Pripyat, Ukraine, which is the town that was closest to Chernobyl. It is visually stunning in its decay, and it also stands as a very strong reminder of how quickly things around us can change.

ZT: Are there any specific horror themes that you haven't touched on that you have a big desire to in the near future?

AAT: There are countless themes that I want to touch on – insane asylums, revenge, something with a bit of an early Saw type of feel, etc. I’m also interested in trying to find a way to use classic characters, such as vampires and werewolves, and make them scary again.

ZT: What is your favorite horror film?

AAT: It’s a difficult question because I love so many different horror sub-genres, but if I have to pick just one it’s probably the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

ZT: Do you have any new and exciting projects on the horizon that you'd like to share?

AAT: There are lots of new projects on the horizon! Without giving too much away, there are two planned sequels and also a shoot that will allow me to utilize all of the snow that falls in MI, amongst many other ideas.

ZT: Anything that you would like to add?

AAT: Fans can keep up on the latest about my work by visiting my website at and by “liking” the Facebook. Thank you, Zombies & Toys!

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