A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the deserted villages that lie scattered across the British countryside, and how I thought that they could make beautiful photo subjects, a slightly different take on urban decay. Following on from that, someone mentioned to me that I might want to take a look at Corinne May Botz’s book Haunted Houses. Now, I don’t usually go in for the mystical or spiritual, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was letting myself in for, but I shall admit to being pleasantly surprised.
Whilst the theme that unites all the pictures in the book is that they are of haunted houses, and there are ghost stories interspersed amongst the images, that’s as far as the spookiness factor goes. Nothing is shot so as to convey eeriness or document strange goings-on. What you have, really, is a book of sumptuous photographs taken at over 80 houses, some abandoned, some inhabited, across the United States.
Botz sets the scene with some gorgeous landscapes and some lovely architectural shots, but where the book really comes alive is when she focuses on interiors, and pays attention to the little details. You get to see books scattered by bedsides, paint peeling on staircases, tables set for supper. For a book about something that supposed to be other-worldly, it has a very human element to it.
My personal favourite is the corner of a four-poster bed canopy reflected in a dressing table mirror, but then I’ve said before how much of a sucker I am for photos that use reflections. Still, page after page, I found myself appreciating Botz’s use of light and shadow in her photos.
Yes, I can see how some people would dismiss the book as some gushing hybrid of a luscious interiors’ magazine and a millionaire’s estate agent’s brochure. True. But don’t overlook it. For the right person, this book is perfect on their coffee table.