Dave Charsley with the Rubber Monkey Girls

Interview by Emma Louise Carr

Dark hues flicker across the screen – blacks, greys and reds. There’s a theme for each image, something which makes it both gothic and otherworldly and more than just a picture. This is art. There are striking femme fatales clad in leather and lace with porcelain skin set in all manner of creative backdrops, from giant chess boards to blood stained laboratories with scantily clad aliens. This is a wonderful combination of something quirky and beautiful.

These stunning pictures hail from the creative mind of Birmingham photographer Dave Charsley. Mostly known in his field for specialising in alternative images, such as dark fantasy, steam-punk and gothic pin-up, Dave has been published in several well-known alternative magazines – Bizarre, Devolution, Alt Fashion and Gorgeous Freaks and is also known for his work at the Birmingham Alt and Burlesque fair.

Dave’s passion for photography began in 1984 with a Cannon SLR camera gifted to him on his 21st birthday and a deep love for metal music. “One image that really gave me inspiration to create would be Bob Carlos Clarke’s cover to Judas Priest’s 1977 “Sin after Sin” album. I was a mad Judas Priest fan in my youth and this was back in the day, when an album cover was much larger and a little more impressive than a CD cover or an MP3 icon. Clarke’s work also helped me understand that a photo could be the starting point to a work of art and didn’t have to be the finished product.”

Some of Dave’s favourite photographers and influences include Chad Michael Ward and German photographer Annie Bertram. “The photographs I admire, are highly stylised and you’d know the creator anywhere, you’re just not going to get that uniqueness, using your IPhone and an app. You really need to start from scratch to create something of lasting quality and individuality.”

His love for photography is so much more than simply capturing the moment. A lot of work goes into creating the finished product, they aren’t just filtered selfies taken on a camera phone. He believes “A great image is something with greater gravity.” It was during his time studying the History of Art at Birmingham College that Dave fell in love with the idea of photography as an art form and a story to be told. “I love an image that you can lose yourself in and wonder what is going on here? I love to force the viewer into that sort of investment.” Which brings into question Dave’s particular passion with the Gothic and his use of digital manipulation in order to bring a picture to life.

His allegiance with the ‘dark-side’ stems from an array of personal influences throughout his 52 years. Not to mention being in his twenties in the 80s – the era of everything Goth. “I grew up with dark comics, heavy metal and Hammer Horror films, so I guess I was always going to be pulled that way and by the time I started my photography, the Goth scene was in full steam.” This passion is about more than big hair and black outfits however, it’s a love for finding beauty in ways not everyone can see. It’s about not conforming to the mainstream photographers that you might see in the likes of vogue, Elle and Rolling Stone magazine just to gain money and higher acclaim. It’s about crafting your signature style and loving what you do. “I’ve tried to photograph main stream fashion and other things in the past, it just doesn’t stimulate me. Bands and models in the alternative scene have such a passion for what they do. They really believe in what they are creating” Over the years Dave has worked with a handful of famous faces in the alt scene including South African model ‘Fracture’ and the British beauty that is Violet Raven (known for her work with Besame cosmetics and Sexhibition).

Dave’s style is something that takes time, imagination and years of mastering digital technology, however this self-taught talent is becoming an art-form that is unappreciated more and more. This is largely due to the fads of ‘social media’ and the image altering apps that are available today. Anyone and everyone is a ‘photographer’ with ‘Instagram.’ “I think it’s really hard to evaluate someone’s work through a photograph these days. The tools of the trade have become so easy to use and high resolution equipment, so much more affordable.” Photoshop has become the ‘must have’ in everyone’s smart phone and although we could all use a little ‘filter’ now and then, when everyone’s photograph looks the same your news feed can start to look a little, vanilla.

Dave has created many unique and wonderful images under the banner of ‘Declinegothica.’ His weapon of choice is a Nikon D700 and his images range from on location shoots with beautiful landscapes and artificial lighting, to time in the studio with his favourite editing tool and a very vivid imagination. “I’ll photograph up to six models against a chromokey background. This can be removed later in post-production and gives me the option to add new scenes and paint new additions using the software Adobe Photoshop. Often a band or a model will give some idea of how they want to appear and then it’s my job to use photos and brushes to mimic their vision.”

There is a huge amount of talent, beauty and dedication in this part of the industry but sadly it’s a style that has and will always be overlooked by so many. “It’s a shame they won’t take a risk on something a little different… It’s most certainly a niche.”

If you'd like to work with me, I generally specialize in the Goth, Dark Fantasy and Steampunk fields but I'm open to all areas of  Book & Album Design, Magazine & Poster, and any other area you might require a little photo manipulation.

Emma Louise Carr December 2015

If you have any ideas or wish to hire Dave for a project, please contact him at Declinegothica.