Welcome to the Fun House ... or Murder House
An invitation to photograph at Scandia Family Fun Center? With the possibility of photographing inside their elaborate haunted house known as the Wuss Maker?
We welcomed an opportunity to photograph at a recent Portrait Slam. We asked about going inside the haunted house. It's quite a large structure with multiple exits where folks who are overwhelmed can "escape" the attraction. Thus, it's known as the Wuss Maker. Because people who feel confident may find a newfound respect for being a "wuss".
We start every photoshoot with an open mind. We hadn't visited this haunted attraction before. We wanted to bring something new to inspire ourselves. Without relying on makeup effects because we wanted flexibility in other parts of the day. We start by visiting local thrift stores. Maybe spooky royalty or werewolf or modern vampire? We leaned into a "Stranger Things" idea because we knew we would photograph in an arcade. But eighties clothes are actually hard to find!
The first few stores didn't give us any sparks of ideas. Then, on a whim, at a thrift store that's a maze of rooms, Anika found the key to inspiration. A wide brim dusky-rose hat. The theme of Portrait Slam was pink for breast cancer awareness. The hat fit the theme perfectly. And the hat evoked a show Anika have both watched multiple times. It was the perfect Coven/Modern Witch hat in the style of American Horror Story. We already had a "Normal People Scare Me" sweatshirt from Murder House. And a dress that matched the hat perfectly.
We didn't know what to expect when visiting the haunted house. Brian, the manager, was a fantastic guide for us. The doll room immediately caught our attention because it was similar to a doll room attic. Then, the clown room because, clowns! Brian's son painted the clown mural by hand.
Oh, we had the ball gown from a thrift store last summer. It also fit the plan for a pink theme, with a cool ombre effect into orange. I liked the idea of a homecoming queen at carnival becoming lost in the hall of mirrors. Anika imagined her as, not the victim of the maze, but the danger in the maze as the insane one that could attack at any moment.
The challenges were that the spaces were dark (of course- it's a haunted house). With walkways. They weren't spaces where we could move around a ton or arrange compositions in multiple ways. Knowing my camera helped a lot. And I loved the light coming in through an open exit doorways.
In the clown room, the exit light wasn't reaching the clown mural or distorting mirrors. So I first asked my assistant to hold my phone light near Anika's face, then to back up and bit and back up a bit. I would make a composite masking out her phone. Then Brian had an LED flashlight. Hurrah! The light on Anika spotlighted perfectly against the swirling colored light effects and mirrors.
I love how the photos turned out. And we're excited to visit the haunted house while it's officially open. Brian and his team put a lot of effort and heart into the Wuss Maker. He said that they have up to 60 actors adding to the attraction. We only got to see two rooms. I can imagine that the rest is equally terrifying.
Enjoy our take on a witch with her doll collection, a homecoming queen at an awful carnival (she may be insane too and she might attack you), and "Normal People Scare Me" owning the fear :)
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