Updated: Feb 1
It was a beautifully overcast afternoon. "Good conditions for a photo shoot of this nature." Raul Paredes was saying as he unloaded his car. He had a soccer mom wagon and filled it with delicate looking camera gear, wireless flash lights and sandbags. I was intrigued with the sandbags. Hell, the whole ensemble was intriguing. Here we were, two cameramen, two bootiful ghoulish models, an aspiring photographer and myself trekking through a forbidden, dark forest. We crossed an gurgling black creek that wet our feet as the tree branches kept grasping at the Ghoul's dresses...
OK, I am exaggerating. We were at the Walnut Creek Trail in San Dimas, CA. A tranquil location. But, when you see Raul's photos, you will believe that we were in a dark magickal forest. The Gore-geous models, Sam @akwardsupervillain and Destinee @destinee_nicholson were dressed ( as my witchy self perceived them) a symbolic and gothic yin and yang. The Ghoul's completed their own makeup and offered insight as to which parts of the location would work best. This shoot was theirs, Raul was the illustrator of their vision. And what an eye Raul has! You could imagine my admiration when he pointed out that the Ghoul's reflection in the creek would make for a fantastic shot.
I came upon @rawlofthedead photography in December of 2018. When the "all out horror" shoot with @batty_sith13, @sagesin @mary_misery and @therealmichaelmyers hit Instagram. There was so much spooky and the the dark undertones of Raul's photography gave me all the horror vibes. As a Horror and Halloween fanatic the thing that I admire about Raul is that every shoot of his tells a story. Raul recreates a vision straight out of horror movies and puts his own spin on them. The most stand out themes, for me anyhow, are his Twilight Zone, La Llorna, and Silent Hill shoots. Raul collaborates with other exceptionally talented photographers like Gary @garyryan1980, Jeff and Haley from @52weeksofhorror for his behind-the-scenes videos; which are later posted on Raul's YouTube channel. This is what makes Raul stand apart from other photographers. He is a willing mentor. He offers his knowledge without holding back and he likes to share his experiences.
Being invited to Raul's first shoot of 2020 holds a dear place in my black heart. Being able to witness the work and magick that goes into the model's and Raul's vision is incredible. Observing the ghoul's poses, Gary's movements throughout the shoot and of corpse Raul's calm, patient and oh-so professional demeanor was amazing! An afternoon well spent. Upon the closing of the shoot, soft spoken Raul answered a few of my burning questions.
MH: You started professional photography in 2012. But, most notably was in 2017 at a Metallica show. Can you enlighten me on when the light-bulb went off and you decided to pursue professional photography?
ROTD: Well in 2012 was when I actually got my first camera. That's when I started learning. By the time 2017 rolled around and the Metallica thing happened, a friend of mine who works for the Pasadena Independent needed a couple of people to cover Green Day and Metallica. I opted for Metallica. He got me a press pass and I was able to shoot the first three songs live. And I was right there, it was like, Holy Shit. I was right there in front of James Hetfield. Rawl of the Dead came before that though.
MH: Have you always been into photography?
ROTD: No, I've always had a digital camera. I didn't start photography until I got an iPhone. I liked taking pictures on that. So, then I thought, I should get a real camera.
MH: What draws you to the horror themed shoots?
ROTD: That's a good question. I just think they are more interesting. You can get really creative with make up and outfits. Whereas with family shoots, which are fine, you can't really have too much fun with those. Horror shoots are more fun because, the people involved are so willing. Like, the Freddy shoot with Kelvin @KelvinKrueger I simply asked him and he was like, yea! Then it evolved into us adding a victim in there and stuff like that. Horror is a lot more fun to do. You can come up with an idea for something that's already been done in the movies and do your own interpretation.
MH: What has been your most memorable shoot? Have you ever had the the cops called on you?
Gary: Yea, you got kicked out of the Cemetery that once.
ROTD: Yeah, Gary was there! I even got a permit. We had Rob (The Real Michael Myers Cosplayer), Mary Misery with her throat slit, Batty who looked like she was straight out of hell and Sage Sin who was Halloween-ed out. I had Gary there and some other photographers. The guy just freaked out. I wouldn't say that was my most memorable one. Twilight Zone, they asked to to tone it down because they thought we were doing a film. We were just doing a shoot and @52weeksofhorror was doing Behind-the-Scenes. It was assumed that because one of the models was running towards the camera. I was just trying to get good content. What an idiot. We can't just stand there.
As were were talking about this shoot. Gary's camera case flipped open and we all had to make sure nothing broke. Raul told us about a time when he lost some lights.
ROTD: That's cause I used to have cheap shit. I learned. Get a sandbag and a sturdy stand. And don't shoot in the wind.
MH: Have you ever had to reschedule a shoot due to adverse weather?
ROTD: No, but, when I shot on the Suicide Bridge in Pasadena it was so windy. I had the heavier light that's like, five or six pounds. I had a twenty five pound sand bag. The wind was so strong it still almost blew that over. I had to hold it down after seeing it almost fall. I didn't let it stop me though.
MH: You have a workshop coming up. What other projects do you have in the works for 2020?
ROTD: You know about one. The magazine. This shoot will probably be in Issue 2. We have @hauntx, February 22 and 23rd and then a photo shoot with @mandymotionless in March and another model.
MH: Whats your favorite Horror movie?
ROTD: The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street. I have a few of them. I guess Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror right?
MH: It most certainly is! What is your favorite to camera to work with?
ROTD: The only camera I have is the Sony A72. It's an older model. But, it shoots just fine! Everyone swears by the A73 which came out in 2017 or 2018. Its great camera too but, I saved up for this A72 so, I love this one. In 2012 I just thought I needed a camera and now I have all this shit.
MH: This is what I love about your work. You don't have any issues disclosing where you will be, what equipment you use. You're willing to share your knowledge.
ROTD: Early on I worked with this photographer dude I really liked. I would ask him questions and he would answer some, but then he would tell me later, "Don't tell people where we're shooting." I asked, "well why?" He would say, "It's a secret and you'll blow it for everyone." I don't care. I do the opposite. There's room for everyone. I'll give you a map for locations. Everyone does their own shoot. Nothing is exactly the same. Just share the information.
You too can learn from Raul. He is hosting a Portrait Workshop on Saturday, February 15th.
Visit Raul at Rawl of the Dead on Facebook for more information or @rawlofthedeadphotography.com
Check out his YouTube Channel!
And, keep an eye out for his upcoming quarterly magazine.
Raul can also be found on Instagram @rawlofthedead