Saturday, October 1, 2011


Old anonymous photos are interesting as all there is to tell the story behind the image is one’s own observational skills and imagination. The separation one has from the images is as much a hinderance as it is a liberator.

Ossian Brown’s HAUNTED AIR is a book of photos of children and even adults dressed in their Hallowe’en best. Lined up in rows, standing alone, being goofy and deadly serious, these are people who cared enough (or had relatives who did) to document their celebration of All Hallow’s Eve for posterity.

HAUNTED AIR is a haunting book. Not because the costumes are particularly scary (of which a few are, mind you), but because they represent a time long past.  The vast majority of even the youngest souls depicted exuberantly showing off their exquisite Halloween garb have passed from this world. Hell, the WORLD they lived in doesn’t exist anymore.

Their time has come and gone. And yet, it is such a hauntingly familiar time from which these pictures were taken. A time that comes once a year as the air grows crisp with chill and the spiders weave their last webs. Reassuring, in a way, that their Halloween was not so very different than our own. Regardless of the vast changes in the world…

And yet, will our time seem so fleeting to those to follow?

It is a spartan tome, having neither commentary nor remarks referring to any of the photos directly.  It is simply photo after photo in the middle of a white blank page, drawing the viewer in by the eye for a peek of the world gone bye.

David Lynch, who never is very wordy, gives a very short and rambling foreword.  This really allows the photographs to speak for themselves. And they certainly do.

After all that “silence”, it is somewhat reassuring to be greeted by the words of Geoff Cox at the end of the quiet. His words put you there in tone and bring that time to you. Context, as it were. A reassuring thing after being trapped in the past with all those dead folks.

His words are poetic as Bradbury speaking of the season we all love so much:

“A vagrant ritual is reborn and re-enacted in chilly Midwestern regions. An ancient mourning of the sun’s demise, Summer’s End, once marked on hilltop and deep in woodland clearings with vast wild fire and the spilling of beast blood, now transplanted into the rich, black soil of America. Samhain’s unruly orphan, suckled on half-fabled Roman fertility rite and Celtic fenland magics, deformed by papal edict and centuries of becoming and let loose on the New World. The dark is rising over remote backwater hamlets, over railyard and schoolhouse and sharp-angled roof, over homestead and woodpile. Hallowe’enland. A world invaded, infested, dissolved, remade and revealed.”

I recommend muting this video as the music from John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN doesn’t fit the feel of the book or the era the photos are from:

Welcome back to another October of my participation in the COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN Blogring. You'll notice the button for this event in the top right corner of my blog. Just click on it to visit the headquarters of the event and there you'll be able to contact any of the other participants you wish to visit with. See you next time for another installment of the Countdown!

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