Scream for the Camera
How much are you willing to suffer for a perfect picture? Will you bare all for the camera?
I stand obediently against a wall belonging to a dirty auto repair shop in Long Island, New York. My clothes are torn and my body drenched from water. Two men in dark suits and equally dark sunglasses shout a series of questions at me as their faces hover only a few inches away from mine.
Who are you? Why are you here?
I stutter out an honest answer, but the truth is not enough—and I’m left wondering what will be enough to appease them. In a room full of car tools and machinery at their disposal, they can extort any answer they’re looking for.
What started out as an experimental photoshoot quickly devolved into a horrific misunderstanding and the “photographers” that originally organized the shoot gaze voyeuristically from afar. They seize this opportunity to document my torment, preserving each torturous moment with the flash of their camera. At no point am I smiling.
Shock Theater’s Eye For Horror is an hour and a half extreme horror experience that frames you as the latest model for two macabre-loving photographers performed by Shock Theater’s co-founder Will Puntarich and local NYC photographer Michael Zinn. Together, the two combine the photography process with a theatrical performance to create a show that captures and puts emphasis on the moment at hand.
Getting the shot to look as realistic as possible is not enough though. The photographers of Eye For Horror are on pursuit for participants that are willing to endure the extreme so they can capture genuine emotional responses from physically demanding situations, gifting you with shareable documentation of your journey after it comes to an end.
‘Experimental Photographer(s) Seek Willing Subject’
The experience begins when you a receive a link to a suspicious looking ad on Craigslist requesting all interested applicants to reply promptly with basic information: name, selfie, and phone number so the photographers are able to get to know you on a personal level first.
The same day, I look down at my phone to see a text message from a number I don’t recognize. I open it to stare at a long list of obsessively specific requirements on how to prepare my body and mind as best as humanly possible before the photo session.
They want my skin to be perfect. They want my body to be perfect.
Following a recipe that uses common household ingredients, I must prepare a cleansing remedy to clear my skin of any blemishes and provide visual proof as I apply it to my face.
The message ends by stating they’ll continue to be in close communication.
On the day of the shoot, a car pulls up to the assigned location as I stand eagerly waiting to meet the mystery photographer. A man steps out, but I’m not greeted with a warm welcome. Or respect for that matter. He unravels a long strip of duct tape and wraps it tightly around my eyes as I’m thrown into the back of the car. I hear the ignition start up and the vehicle drives to a destination that remains unknown.
Every Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
If you’re still reading by this point, you most likely are the kind of person who finds dark themes and subjects fascinating, even beautiful. The idea of photographing and capturing these horrific images and situations, like having your head held underwater in a fish tank until you can’t breathe or awaiting a bullet in the back of your head while kneeling on cold hard concrete, can be offensive to some. However, this type of performance, no matter how controversial in nature, undeniably goes beyond shock value. Taking home a photograph of your time in captivity after you’ve survived is like getting to keep your wisdom teeth after they’ve been extracted. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but you feel overcome with pride and triumph after being tested and pushed to your limit.
Eye For Horror does not rely on music or lighting to set the tone. This is the first event I ever experienced that occurred in broad daylight – a stark and ultra-real contrast to the darkness and moodiness of past horror experiences. There’s no place to hide. Every area of the garage is exposed, like the giant tank of water in the corner, and a pair of handcuffs swinging from a rope, a Chekhov’s Gun that I know is definitely meant for me.
While this particular session archives the events at an auto repair shop tangled in a political conspiracy, another might place the participant in the center of a crime scene at a shady motel. This concept of staging the photoshoots between alternating locations and themes allows the format to remain fresh and unpredictable.
Eye For Horror’s focus in capturing the ugly and unflattering aspects of life on camera is not necessarily a desirable experience most will seek out and that’s by the show’s design, but those that do feel compelled to take the plunge all have their reasons for participation. Whether you label the experience as a test of endurance, form of entertainment, or a unique opportunity to be a living canvas, your decision to participate will be sanctified by the camera.
For more information on Shock Theater and Eye For Horror’s upcoming Spring Session, visit their facebook and send them a message for event details. Willing participants must be 18 years of age or older.
You can read another account, detailing Shock Theater’s commitment to excellent customer service in Eye of Horror, here.