My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Spynie Palace Castle I: The Castle Ruins

On the May Bank Holiday (1st May), I went to Spynie Palace Castle with two local Goths and the lady behind ::Superstitchious::, who was there for a rather thorough photo-shoot of herself modelling a new gown design for her shop.  You can see the results of that photoshoot ::here::. While the others were working on the photo-shoot, I took the opportunity to explore the castle and learn a bit of history, and generally get rather excited about visiting such a fantastic ruin. As all my long-term readers will know, I love castles. This post is about the castle, I will do another one about the photoshoot, especially as I got photographed too. 

Spynie Palace Castle from the approaching driveway.
The first thing I will point out about the castle is its situation. It's on the edge of a hill, just past its crest - and not a particularly high hill - with a steep valley visible on the left of the image above (that curve just gets steeper!). That descent leads to a boggy wooded valley with streams snaking across it and lush ground-cover vegetation, and many hundreds of years ago was actually part of a firth, opening out into the greater Moray Firth near Elgin. The castle guarded a port, with parts of it not quite visible in this image that actually backed straight onto watery bits! However, since then land has both been artificially reclaimed, and the coastline has risen slightly. The whole of Northern Europe was weighed down during the last ice-age by the immense pressure of all those glaciers, and since then, northern places have slowly risen back up! Eventually the valley dried up entirely and is now woods and farmland and does not even remotely resemble an inlet, except for the boggy ground, and the river is now a stream. I am so used to places down in Southern England where the fens are getting wetter, the cliffs are washing out to sea (and ending up as sandbanks in continental Europe), and flood risks seem to be increasing, that for somewhere to dry up - especially in a climate as soggy as the Scottish one - is quite remarkable! 

Windows in windows
I can't resist an interesting window (my trips to ::Rait Castle:: and ::Wester Barevan Churchyard:: are testament to that!), and I especially can't resist one in a wall that tells a story like this. The hall it backed onto was repurposed and resized several times. The rectangular apertures of early windows frame both the smaller Gothic window on the left and the tiny rectangular window on the right. Walls like this - where repairs and alteration are even more evident in colour, as different sandstones were used - tell a story, they're a monument to architectural changes - changes in status, purpose, taste and style. Rectangular windows are Baronial, but this was a Bishop's palace, and Gothic arches are ecclesiastical... 

A ruined wall with window-holes, tower in the background.
As is clear to see, the castle is in a state of ruin - the tower is still standing, but the rest of it just a collection of ruined walls, window apertures and earthworks. It was apparently rather magnificent in its time, but the waterway dried up, the castle lost its purpose, and eventually it fell into disrepair and then disarray. A roof was put back on the tower to try and halt the process of disintegration, but apparently it caused more problems than it solved and was removed. In some countries, apparently ruined castles get rebuilt, and the (very helpful) information guide was telling me that some tourists complain that the castle hasn't been rebuilt - but I can see the reasoning behind leaving it as a carefully preserved ruin rather than rebuilding. 

I have a window obsession.
Photos through windows will always be one of my favourite types of architectural photograph. In this case, I was using the bright spring sky to make the form of the window the focus, with the second thing of interest being the ruined stone wall through which it cuts, and the patch of haze - I think more a camera artefact that any actual dusty or misty air - I need to clean my lens! I think this window has ended up looking Gothic in both the terms of it being a pointed arch window (see the first black and white image) and it having an eerie, almost supernatural quality to it in this picture. I think this is one of my favourite photographs from the trip. 

Ruined wall re-imagined as craggy cliff
The picture came about as I saw the tree behind the wall, and was given the idea of the wall as a craggy cliff, now that it is rubbly and jagged, with stones jutting out at dramatic angles. I liked that part of the wall was dressed and neat, and that part was rough and irregular, and waited for the light to catch it just right. I just wish the sky had been a little bit more dramatic, but this isn't the end of the universe. 

This blog may contain excessive levels of fenestration.
This is an alcove in what was - I think - a hall or a chapel. I sadly didn't have enough money to buy a guide book, and my search on the internet for a legible floor-plan of the castle hasn't really worked out. There's a nicely visible corbel up in the top left corner, which would have supported a sturdy roof beam. I imagine this part of the castle would have been quite splendid in its heyday. I also like how this image shows the contrast between smooth facing stones, and the more uneven stones on the interior of a wall. 

A very tall wall

This is a picture I took to emphasise the verticality. I'm a rural sort of person, and the castle tower is still a legitimately tall building to me! It would probably be quite tall if transported to the city of Inverness, if in comparison to other buildings there - even their tower-blocks are 7 ordinary floors in height, and the hospital 7 extra-height floors with an 8th level of rooms on the roof for services, and this castle is 6 floors above the basement, and then the remains of a roof-space which is another storey, making it quite a tall building even for the modern Highlands. Obviously, quite short if you live in a city with skyscrapers, or even just lots of buildings taller than 10 storeys. (I think I would find actually being in somewhere like New York or Shanghai with lots of tall buildings quite strange! I found myself quite daunted by the taller buildings of Glasgow...)

Interior of tower, with light through window reflecting off floor. 

The interior of the tower has been partially restored. I think the patches of white stuff are the remains of lime plastering, and look quite stark against the darker stone. When I've been in castles that are still inhabited, the interiors are often plastered, as are the interiors of many old churches, and the idea that everything was bare stone in the past is something of a misunderstanding - yes, not all spaces were plastered, and yes, a lot of historical remains are no longer plastered, but a lot were. It is like how many old English churches are lime-washed white inside, but many centuries ago, before the Reformation and subsequent move towards Protestantism, they were just as brightly painted as many European churches, and many columns and stone elements that weren't plastered were also painted. 

For a change it's a staircase, and not a window!

The picture above is looking back up the stairs that descend into some sort of underground cellar (or possibly dungeon!) beneath the castle. It is a round room, with a domed roof, which I tried desperately to photographs, but I didn't have a tripod or stand, the floor was too uneven to rest the camera upon, and the light-levels necessitated a long exposure... I have a picture that's the least blurry of my efforts, but I'm not sure it warrants being here, nevertheless, the construction method was hypnotically concentric and fascinating, so I have included it as a thumbnail to the side. Anyway, this was the light reflecting off the stone walls, and I thought it really rather interesting. There were lights in the subterranean room, hence why the floor is visible, but it was still quite dingy - but at least it was out of the wind! 

Alley to the dried valley.
This alley goes down to a gate, which originally opened out towards where inlet was - I imagine there were once wooden piers or docking areas beyond it, but they are long, long gone. I wish I had taken a photograph that did a better job of demonstrating the three-dimensionality of the other walls and spaces around the alley, but I didn't quite manage. I really wish I could better convey the complexity of the castle spaces, and how the remains still show where rooms and levels once were. 

Tree above the wall 
Another photograph that shows how ruined the castle has become, and which shows corbels where beams sat and where alcoves and apertures once were. I find it really interesting to look at old buildings and look at how the remains infer what else used to be there. I try and visualise where the floors once were, what sort of doors they once had, whether the windows were glazed, and if so were they just lead-lights, or maybe stained glass? I wonder how tall walls originally were, and what the roof was like - looking for slots and corbels for where beams once rested, wondering about what I can figure out from the spacing, and what's left of any gable ends

I will finish on another window. Windows are liminal things, between in the indoors and the outdoors, and I find them very interesting. It's a poetic sentiment about perspective that drives my frequent photography of window apertures - thoughts on our viewing things, and the nature of space that I guess are probably a little too much like the architectural-theoretical discourses I read, and which I feel a little overly-abstracted in my thinking, and do wonder if it comes over as pretentious. Perhaps it's enough to just say I like windows! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Botanic Gardens Revisted: Lolita Meet

The Highland Lolita community have become regular visitors at the Botanic Gardens in Inverness. I've written about meets held there, starting with our ::first ever community meet:: when there were only 3 of us and I didn't have a proper Lolita outfit yet, and then a ::summer meet:: in 2015, and the ::Tea Party Club photoshoot::, also in 2015. We went there last year, too, but I didn't get time to write about it. This post is about when went there back in April, but I didn't have time to write about it at the time because of college work.

This was a meet that I organised, but I still ended up hideously late because first one of my shoes broke, and then the bus I was on to Inverness arrived just as the bus to the Botanic Gardens was leaving, so I missed my connection. I ended up meeting a slightly lost lady on the bus, with her young daughter (who had fabulous floral face-paint) trying to get to the nearby Aquadome (municipal swimming pools and gym) for a birthday party, so I showed her how to walk around to where she was heading because currently there is a lot of road-building going on, and the usual entrance to the road down which both the Aquadome and the Botanic Gardens are situated is a construction zone. By the time I got to the Botanic gardens, my friends had already eaten and drunk most of their afternoon tea, so we then went out to the gardens. 

Plants & Flowers at the Botanic Gardens. Photos by me.

As often happens we got photographed a bit by other people visiting the gardens, but nobody was too invasive or rude. People often think we're dressing up for a special occasion, but while we're not necessarily daily Lolitas, many of us wear elaborate alternative fashion on a daily basis - whether it's my Romantic and anachronistic Gothic fashion, or fairy-kei and other Japanese street-styles on others, and I do sometimes wear Lolita just because I can - the question "do you dress like this every day?" can be a tricky one. It's a bit easier when I'm on my own and get asked that question - I can answer "this particular outfit and style is for <insert event here> but I do wear elaborate Gothic outfits every day, yes" - a lot of people can't tell Gothic Lolita apart from regular Romantic Goth, to many it's just the same thing but with knee-length skirts. Other Lolita styles, however, are clearly different from any other fashion or subcultural style. 

Koi and other fish - picture by Kawaii Keke-Chan
My favourite part of the Botanic Gardens is the cactus house, but we didn't get that far in this visit. My second favourite is the tropical greenhouse. It has a fish-pond with waterfall, but due to an issue with the pump, it no longer goes into the stream under the path, which is sad. I love watching the koi fish and other carp (goldfish?) in the pool. They're very beautiful. 

Keke-Chan and H, photo by Koneko

There are steps in the tropical greenhouse leading up to a mezzanine all dripping with climbing plants and beautiful flowers, with fancy railings and even fancier metal furniture.

Koneko, picture is, I think, by me.
As it is in a greenhouse, with a glass roof, it is quite ,bright there! We all sat down and chatted for a while, admiring the full view of the tropical house, and walking up past the waterfall. It's all very beautiful and elegant - and quite warm inside, regardless of the rain outside. One day I will have to take a packed lunch with me (from the café by the entrance), and sit up there to eat it with the sounds of the fountain and the waterfall. The grotto I was photographed in for the ::Tea Party Club photo-shoot:: is beneath the mezzanine. 

Koneko infront of the wishing fountain, picture by herself.

Photo of me by Koneko
We then went to the rear of the tropical green-house, which has a wishing-fountain (you throw coins in to make a wish), and the rear of the grotto, which is all neo-classical and completely different from its rocky exterior on the fish-pond. There's even a colourful stained-glass window commemorating something to do with a bank.

One interesting thing is that there is an artificial tree that has been built to grow 
the sort of rainforest plants that grow secondary on trees. The artificial tree is made from sustainably harvested cork, and rather twisty and fun. It has colourful flowers growing on it, and long strains of silvery, lace-like plants dripping from it. I don't know what the lacy plant is, but I would love to grow some myself as it looks quite magical. 

One of the things I like about my local Lolita community is that we're not affraid to be silly now and then, and have a bit of fun. We're quite laid-back, and make sure we don't take ourselves too seriously... like in this photo where Koneko snuck up and photo-bombed me!

Koneko photo-bombing me. I forgot who took this pic!
A few of the younger girls were at the meet, too, but to protect their privacy as they're legally minors in the UK, I haven't featured photographs of them here. Koneko has a facebook page/blog ::here:: andKawaii Keke-Chan's got an account on ::Tumblr::

Outfit Rundown

Photo by Kawaii Keke-Chan
✯ Head-dress: Hand-made by myself
✯ Wig: An online Cosplay shop, but I can't remember which.
✯ Blouse: Spin-Doctor
✯ Dress: second-hand Bodlyine dress
✯ Necklace: Claire's Accessories
✯ Belt: charity shop find
✯ Floral tights: I can't remember, but probably Tesco
✯ Shoes: Demonia shoes bought secondhand on eBay

This outfit was meant to be a simple all-black outfit. I was initially going to wear a black wig, too, but decided to go with this dark green one. The wig has a LOT of volume, so I wore an extra-puffy set of petticoats to balance it. There's no real theme to it, and the design of the dress is just Lolita - not particularly Gothic elements, just lots of ruffles.

In future I want to put together more outfits that aren't just all black and anachronistic, but more Gothic - more elements that tie to the usual motifs - skulls, bats, Gothic architecture, vampires, graveyards, ghosts, etc. as well as cuts that are more Gothic - things with lacing details, big bell sleeves, velvet, using spikes and studs as an accenting detail, etc. I think I need to slowly bing in more of my 'Goth' to my Lolita, making it really Gothic Lolita, not just a 'Goth in Lolita'!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Subcategories - A Discussion

This is a response to my ::previous article:: being discussed in part on the Cemetery Confessions internet radio/podcast, in the most recent episode, ::here::. I suggest you listen to it - both because Cemetery Confessions is an excellent pod-cast, and because otherwise this post won't really make much sense. 

I don't intend this as an argument in any personal term, this is just my riposte in the debate, and I don't want anyone to misconstrue this as an attempt on my part to start any drama - I see this as a debate, where I've raised points, the Count and those on the show have given disagreements, and I give counter-arguments in the debating sense of the word - and I hope this conversation keeps going! 

The first disagreement discussed is in relation to Romantic Goths.  To them, Romanticism is only an underlying tenet of Goth, rather than something that can be considered a separate aspect of it - I agree that Romanticism is indeed a major contributing factor to the Gothic mindset and the Gothic Subculture in general, and it is an underlying tenet indeed  - the distinction I was making is that there are some people who gravitate more to that specific aspect of the subculture. All of the things I mention as being apart of a subcategory are not exclusive to the subcategories- and they shouldn't be - and the way I see a subcategory, it is more about from which perspective you approach the subculture, rather than an separate group within Goth that is a bubble divided from the other parts. Everything that I see as a subcategory has to be within Goth already. 

The second is that I think my take on the Megan Balanck stereotypes has been misconstrued - I don't actually agree with the way Goth is broken into subcategories by Megan Balanck, and I don't think I am all those labels that I fit according to her list - as my original article explained. I know they had to cut down from my original article because I do write a LOT, but I feel like at this point is was cut down in a way that lost my original point - listing all the subcategories I would fit under according to her was meant to be an example of how I find her framework overly labels things. I think labels are something that, like many things, are good in moderation. I don't think her 'Goth Stereotypes' accurately describe how Goth works (and I don't really think it was intended to), so I tried to give my own take on how things do work - and how many of things that Ms Balanck gave are making subcategories out of things I wouldn't consider to be subcategories as how I would define that - things that are hybrids with other subcultures, that are just an aesthetic, etc. I didn't really want to write an extended critique of the 'Goth Stereotypes' in my original article, but there are quite a few things I disagree with her on, especially her treating hybrids and other subcultures as part of Goth - 'Rivethead'/Industrial and Steampunk may have ties to Goth, but they are their own subcultures!

[Tangent: One particular thing I didn't like in her 'Goth Stereotypes' was her including 'mopey' and 'perky' Goth, because I think that someone's personality, or mood, aren't really subcategory at all, especially when these things are often subject to fluctuations, and especially when the idea of us being 'mopey' or depressed is an externally imposed derogatory stereotype, and I have never seen it reflected from within Goth, and feel like that unlike the others, which even if they aren't necessarily about Goths (Lolitas, Rivetheads and Steampunks aren't Goth!) do at least have a grain of truth, and some level of "it's funny because it's true" - they do at least reflect the world a little, and people can see themselves or people they know in them. The idea of 'mopey' Goths, or 'perky Goths' (usually with the latter as a deliberate contrast to the expected former stereotype) just doesn't seem true to human nature, let alone Goths.]

I think that labels can definitely be too "sticky" as The Count said, and that they shouldn't be used to box people in, or compel people to box themselves in. I've been a Romantic Goth for nearly as long as I've been Goth, and I've been Romantic for a lot longer - and I have never personally found it limiting or something which has become stale for me. The label shouldn't be something you act to fill - it should just be a description for how you already are - one thing I will always maintain about life is that it is more important to be yourself than to live up to the expectations of a label. 

I actually prefer the term "Classic Goth" that was proffered in the podcast to the term "Trad Goth". I didn't coin the term "Trad Goth", and I too am no fan of 'traditional' being contracted to 'Trad', but I just presumed it was an Americanism in this instance. I was using the term as it is the one I see most frequently used to describe people who are more interested in Goth from a perspective that is closer to its origins in music, club-culture and '80s creativity, rather than from a Romantic perspective, or from a perspective that is more ingrained with a different culture. I also think it is very important that all Goths understand their history, and the roots of the subculture - I just think that for some, both people who were there the first time around, and people who are Post-Punk revivalists of a sort, they find themselves drawn more to those aspects of Goth, and to looking at it from that perspective. I know that Goth had an ideological shift from its punk roots, and I would agree that perhaps my notion that "Classic" or "Trad" Goths are more into being deliberately subversive is more a reflection of the ones I know personally than of people who are interested in that era of Goth and that perspective on Goth in general. 

One criticism I would give of myself is that instead of trying to define what I see as subcategories, I tried to give examples of aspects -both in relation to aesthetics and in relation to music and perspective - of what sorts of things can come under that umbrella, and perhaps I would have done better to set actual parameters, even if nebulous ones. What I wanted to do was give examples of how it is more than just clothes, but what I think I actually did was further confuse the issue. 

I am not a sociologist - dilettante or academic - so I do not really know enough on that to argue the sociological framework of whether Goth is a culture or subculture, and whether Goth is influenced by its parent culture, or not. I think it's only right that I acknowledge that I'd be out of my depth there. 

I think the part where I disagree most is in relation to Japanese Goth and I will give my opinion as the author of the original article, and as someone interested in that aspect of the scene, but I really feel it would be better handled by a different blogger, someone like ::La Carmina:: who is more intimately connected with the scene (and has already written about how the scene is different there, and how yes, it can be more aesthetic in many ways, but that doesn't make it less sincere), or even better, someone in Japan from the Japanese Goth scene itself. I know that Cemetery Confessions has been interviewing Goths from around the world, as I was part of that, and perhaps this could open up an opportunity for the show to interview a Japanese Goth in Japan on this topic! I really don't want to talk for Japanese Goths here, because I'm a 'Franglais' person who has an interest in Japanese culture and as a Goth, an interest in how Goth is there, not someone living there, but I still feel like I ought to explain my reasoning, however.

If you're a Goth in Japan or another person with an interest in J-Goth who knows more than me, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - I'm not the font of all knowledge, and I certainly know that my perspective has limitations, plus I love to be educated! 

I think that part of the reason that Goth is fairly consistent in many places is because that there are a lot of similarities between the parent cultures - there, obviously, are differences between American, and say, British culture, but there are also a LOT of similarities, especially in our pop-cultures. Japanese culture has its similarities too, but it also has more marked differences. I don't think that I did a very good job of describing what I meant in my original article - the comment about manga, anime, etc. was more to indicate that Westerners into that part of Goth a) often come to be interested in how Goth is in Japan through depictions of Gothic themes in those media, and b) that they're into aspects of Japanese pop-culture other than just Goth in Japan, rather than this being all it takes to make someone a J-Goth (and anime and manga are examples that I expect my readers to be familiar with). 

I do think there are fads in Japanese subcultures and street-fashions (just as there are here! I see hipsters walking around in dressed in fashion that borrows a lot from the Goth aesthetic!) but I don't think that all Japanese pop-culture is all inherently faddish - just like anywhere else, if someone finds something to be a thing that they genuinely connect with and enjoy, they are likely to retain it. Yes, Japanese Goths have taken inspiration from Goths in Europe and the US, but I don't think it's a cartoonish pastiche, I think it is Goth seen through the lens of Japanese pop-culture and culture - and this makes it Goth approached from that perspective, and with its own distinctiveness. I think the "ideological influences, pop-culture influences.. ...purely aesthetic influences, moral normative type claims being either subverted or embraced in alternative way", from both directions, are precisely why Goth from Japan has evolved a little differently, and noticeably so.  

If it was just limited to Goths in Japan, I probably wouldn't call it a subcategory, more a regional distinctiveness that's a little more marked than others (and perhaps, as I mentioned, Deathrock is like that, different in its own distinct way from Post-Punk in the UK, or in Europe, because it developed in a different culture), but because it has produced a lot of tangible culture that gets consumed by, and influences a lot of Goths outside of Japan, many of whom have become very interested in Goth from a Japanese perspective because they have an interest in Japanese culture and pop-culture in general, I feel that it probably does deserve to be termed a subcategory - I can certainly see the ways in which my friends like ::K:: approach the subculture than from how I do, or my friends who could be described as 'Trad' or 'Classic' Goth do. I also acknowledge that a Goth outside of Japan approaching the Goth in Japan from their own culture and subcultural framework, and then ingesting a Japanese interpretation of Goth that in turn has been inspired by Western Goth is going to be a different perspective again to someone who is part of the Japanese scene itself. Also, aspects of Goth from a Japanese perspective have filtered into Goth in general - taking inspiration from Lolita fashion, listening to 13th Moon, discussing shinigami as psychopomps, or blending kawaii and kowai aren't limited to Japanese Goths or Goths elsewhere who have a big interested in Japanese Goth. 

I have definitely observed that there are both differences and a LOT of similarities - there has to be, otherwise it wouldn't still be Goth! Goth does have its own culture which does transcend national boundaries, but that does not mean that the culture you come from doesn't have any influence on how you interact with Goth - otherwise, using my local scene as an example, Goths here wouldn't be talking about bean sìth, the Cailleach of winter and kelpies as well as vampires, witches and werewolves, or incorporating the local folklore and history into how they interact with Goth, and wearing black kilts to club nights - for the obvious examples - although it's often far more complex than that, and harder to tease out, and I think the same applies to Goth in Japan, it's just that its more pronounced than with the differences between Goths in the US and the UK, or Goths in different parts of Europe, etc. (although I would say there definitely is a difference between continental Goths, and US and UK Goths) because the parent culture, especially in terms of pop-culture, is a little more different. 

There are definitely people in Japan who don't just put Goth on as a club costume, or just to be photographed on the Jingu Bashi bridge, garnering attention and ending up in street-snaps of Fruits or the Gothic & Lolita Bible (those things actually have become less popular with time, and the Goths there remain). I think it does Japanese Goths who are committed to their scene a disservice to see Goths in Japan all being likened to kids in the late '90s and early '00s getting into Marilyn Manson because he was different, darker and edgier, and it was cool and rebellious - especially when within western Goth we've seen plenty of people join the subculture because they think it's cool and edgy as teens or young adults, and then stuck with it for the long haul - all the 'mall-Goths' who grew into the subculture rather than out of it! Although I do think there may be more pressure in Japan for people to 'grow out of it' than in other places, that doesn't mean that everyone does, or that it is just something that is momentarily popular with some more rebellious cool kids and then vanishes again. 

Bands like 13th Moon, Neurotic Doll, and Madame Edwarda, are what I meant by 'Gothic bands from Japan' - I think there's a little more hybridisation going on when it comes to Visual Kei bands, etc. but that the influence of Visual Kei bands needs to be considered too. I do think that aesthetically, and musically, there's a lot of referencing Deathrock rather than UK Post-Punk and Goth bands (eg. Phaida has a lot of similarities with Christian Death), but that doesn't make it a pastiche of Deathrock, it just shows the path through which inspiration has flowed. 

The Part There Wasn't Time To Discuss
I really wish there had been time to discuss the last part of my article, as I think it relates more to what the actual problem is with labels - whether or not they are limiting and divisive. 

I think the way people approach labels is probably where a lot of the contention arises from. People don't want labels because they think they are innately harmful. People are, and with legitimate cause, worried that it will cause people to box themselves into narrow definitions that eventually lead to them feeling trapped, or that the way that hybrids and other subcultures (especially Steampunk, Industrial and Emo) get mislabelled as 'Goth subcategories' will confuse people, or that newcomers to the subculture feel like they have to pick a bunch of terms. All of these things do happen, but I personally don't think they have to happen. 

I think a lot of the issue is that people see the labels not as a description for how perspective, tastes in music, aesthetics and interests come together, but as bubbles, and fragile ones, that only encompass a narrow set of things, and that if you expand beyond that, the bubble will burst and it will be terrible - there should be no real consequences to outgrowing a label, or to finding that with time you better fit a different one, if you don't get cliquish about them in the first place. If you start of primarily interested in the Gothic and Romantic, but later come to be more interested in '80s revival, find you've more general interests, or in any way change how you approach Goth, then all that happens is you change a few words to describe your interests - it's no betrayal to whatever way you identified before, and unless you live somewhere with an unfortunately cliqueish scene, shouldn't have any real-world repercussions. People changing and growing is natural, and no label should seen as a boundary, just a description. 

As I keep coming back to - it's more important to be true to yourself than to create expectations based around a label. You should never pick a category and then decide to best fulfil it - you should be yourself and just describe yourself with the terms that are most accurate. 

It is human nature to try and categorise things in order to understand them, and I don't think we can ever escape that with time, and as things become more diverse and distinctive, labels will arise - what we have to do is be responsible with them. Over-labelling becomes counter-productive, as things become too specific - and similar terms used in too many different ways - to really be meaningful; overly rigid categories leads to people boxing themselves in, feeling like they have to conform to an expectation of what a category should entail; not enough labels mean that people don't have a vocabulary to express precisely what they mean without giving lengthy descriptions. A balance needs to be struck, and I think the key is moderation. 

I also think that a true subcategory - originating from within Goth, and being about how one approaches various aspects of what is Goth - will always be authentically Goth. I know that the hybrid subcultures, such as Cybergoth, Gothic Lolita, etc. will always be contentious because they're always going to be a mixture of things, in varying proportions, and because there's this external element it will never really be wholly Goth - and the debate is to whether that should be embraced alongside what is Goth, and see it as a positive diversifying influence, or whether it risks overly diluting the subculture to the point where the term 'Goth' just ends up meaning 'darkly alternative'. Those debates seem to answer themselves with time, as time either confirms or denies the possible consequences, and as people hash it out until eventually an approximate consensus is reached - it happened with the Marilyn Manson influx, it happened with the Cybergoths and the rise in popularity of Industrial, and it's happening with Pastel Goth and Nu-Goth, and I'm sure it happened with other things before my experience of the subculture and will continue to happen in the future as things change and new things arrive. 

I also don't think that subcategories should translate into social cliques. I have been in places where this has happened - those into the '80s way of seeing Goth acting like those with  a Romantic sensibility were just misguided LARPers with a fondness for vampires and not 'real' Goths, people into Cybergoth refusing to even talk to people who weren't clad in goggles, PVC and neon, and people saying that those who like metal as well as Goth have no musical taste and aren't proper Goths either, just 'Mansonites' - and I thought that all these cliquish attitudes were terribly immature, even moreso when I joined the Highland Goth scene, because the scene here - especially as it is so small - has just become a refuge for people who like the Gothic, the Goth and generally dark, and has welcomed all the hybridisation and the unique perspectives of each individual as a positive attribute rather than a reason for division - something I hope to to illustrate aesthetically with my photography project (especially as I photograph the same people again in future, in ways that show different facets of them, using fashion, location and photography to try and convey something that is more than aesthetic through a visual medium). I've seen first-hand that it doesn't have to be a scene where people only talk to those who have identical interests to them, and that it's healthy and keeps things interesting when they talk to a variety of Goths and people with interests outside Goth, people who blend and hybridise subcultures, etc. 

As I concluded the first time around: You do not need to pick a category, you do not need to fit a category, and it is far more important to be true to yourself than to be as Goth as possible, or as <insert specific type of Goth here> as possible. It is healthy - and good for the subculture- for us to be diverse people with diverse interests, and to not just be clone-like and striving to fit in to some social group as neatly as possible.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dundee City

For New Year's/Hogmanay, I went to stay with some friends in Dundee. I think it was either New Year's Day or 2nd January, but one of the days of the trip, Raven and I went for a wander around the city. There's a lot of very pretty architecture there, and an interesting cemetery in the city centre. Raven and I were on a quest to find a specific restaurant, so most of the pictures were just snapshots, and I didn't get a chance to look at what they actually were, and with this being exam season (and with me having been generally extremely busy with college this spring) so there's not my usual historical and architectural context.

Quiet Dundee Streets

The one place I have some context on is the Howff Burial Ground. It is urban, bordered on two sides by walls and roads, and on the other two by the rear walls - and windows - of tall Victorian buildings, including the former newspaper offices. There's a windowed tourelle on one of the old newspaper offices that seems to be firstly an afterthought, and both leaking and leaning precariously, which seemed expected - the whole cemetery seemed like a bubble within the city that was in a different time and a little bit like a different world. Even the trees there were tangled, winding and strangely shaped! The burial ground was originally part of the grounds of a Franciscan monastery, and I think the wall with the arches dates from 1601!

Tangle-wood tree

I don't know if this is is a specific species of tree that grows like this, or the result of some kind of pruning technique, but this tree just grew in knots and tangles and lumps and snags. I've never seen a tree like it, but there were at least two in Howff Cemetery. There were no leaves or flowers on it so I, who am no expert on trees, didn't even have that to go on to identify them.

It is possible to do a virtual cemetery tour if you look up 'The Howff' in Dundee, Scotland, on Google StreetView. Apparently it was uploaded by a Google user (a Kevin Reid) - I didn't even know that was possible! It looks like it was done with one of those 360° image cameras or something, as a series of "image spheres" at locations all around the cemetery paths. I don't know how you link to a specific place in Google StreetView, so I won't add the link here, but I do recommend looking it up. 

Neoclassical tower

Near the cemetery was this rather large and fancy Neoclassical building - I didn't catch what it actually was, as I was walking within the cemetery walls, not without, and didn't actually walk past the exterior of whatever it was to see a sign or anything. Whatever it is, it's a very ornate and grand building, and the light on that wintry day caught it beautifully. I looked it up on Google StreetView, and it looks like a concert hall or theatre. 

Church tower, one of a pair

I liked this church, but it was hard to get a god photograph of it because there is a bus stop right in front of it. It is on Panmore Street and has two of these towers and a charming rose window. I thought I'd take one of its 'witches' hat' roofed spire. I love the vents - possibly to help the sound of bells escape. 

McManus Galleries

I had a walk around the McManus Galleries - an amazing Gothic Revival building. I didn't get to go inside them as they were shut, but I took several photographs of the exterior. I would love to do a photo-shoot on the fabulous steps - I wonder if that could be arranged! I also think the steps - in Baroque swirling design - work really well with this otherwise very Gothic design. It's an altogether fabulous, magical-looking building... 

Steeple under rainy skies

This is the steeple on a rather interesting building. In the centre of Dundee is a building that, at first glance, would look like a cathedral. It is huge, old, and Gothic and very definitely the size and shape of the average cathedral. However, it is not a single-purpose building. It has been subdivided, and done so historically. There is the steeple, shown above, which I think is a municipally run clock tower, and at least two churches and a youth group using the rest of the building, with the spaces subdivided for these uses. Apparently subdividing the building became a necessity centuries ago, as there have been several serious fires in the building. The history of the site is very long with the earliest church on the site being from 1192 - a time-line of history of the building can be read ::here::. It's currently surrounded by a shopping mall!

The observant will have noticed that some of the photographs -specifically the ones of  buildings and monuments - are watermarked 'Architecturally Gothic'. This is one of the two Tumblr accounts I run. ::Architecturally Gothic:: is  my architectural photography Tumblr. It's mostly my own work, but I reblog a lot of other people's architectural photography too. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hair Adventures 2: Feeling Blue

As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, my new hair was meant to be a purple a pointed fringe, but the rest pine-green. The hair-cut, done by my friend Melody, turned out well (even if I am still learning to manage it), and initially it seemed that the dye - which I did myself - had worked out, too. I was really happy with my hair for a short while...

Violet fringe, pine-green hair... all seems well
I liked this colour combination - I had gone for a bluer, more violet purple and a green with cool tones so that together they would look better than a yellow-green and a pinkish purple, and I used a different dye for my hair than I normally did - the green was Directions Alpine Green with streaks of Crazy Colour Pine Green. I liked this, and I liked the Crazy Colour Violette. I didn't like how it washed out, though! After a couple of washes my hair was two-tone blue! 

My hair turned blue!
I don't actually know why this happened, either. Before I re-dyed my hair I had bleached my extensive roots, and had spent a while washing (not bleaching) the faded green from my hair until it was very pale mint. My fringe had been bleached to nearly white, and most of the top of my head bleached to pale blonde, so it wasn't from there being a lot of blue underneath. I did, however, dye it in two stages, as the first time was a bit patchy, and I did notice that after the second coat the colours seemed bluer. With the second coat I had also mixed conditioner in with the dye to try and deep condition my hair as I dyed it - something one of my friends recommended to me, and she has had no problem with it, but she uses Arctic Fox rather than Directions dyes.

Freshly done
I have had green dyes fade to bluish before - when I had my multicolour hair, which included actual blue, it definitely faded more towards the blue tones, and the greens became bluer. The picture on the left is how my multicolour hair started out - note that I used actual blues in the middle sections, and only green at the top  - and then it faded to mostly blue. 
After a few washes
However, this took a few washes, and didn't dramatically change colour the first time I washed it. It was also clearly a case of the green at the top fading to turquoise, still with hints of green, as well as blue from the middle section leaching into the purples. The blues remained pretty constant, and just faded a little - not dramatically.  

I don't actually know what has gone wrong with my hair, or how best to fix it. I don't want to bleach my hair again, as it's already brittle and a bit fried - and it needed quite a bit chopped off the bottom to deal with how much I had already damaged it. I'm trying to wash out as much of the blue as possible, and I've bought both some of my usual Directions Apple Green, and some Stargazer UV Green to re-coat the bulk section of my hair. I've also bought some Stargazer UV Pink to put over my royal blue fringe, hoping to make it look purple.

I don't know how well this is all going to turn out - the dye is ordered, but I have an exam on Tuesday, so I probably won't get any dyeing done until Wednesday - after which I will post a 'Hair Adventures 3' instalment to show you all how it turns out. 

Shiny blue lipstick.

I don't think the blue is an objectively bad colour - it's just not right for me. I don't even think I look necessarily bad with it - it suits me a lot better than my natural brown, and a lot better than that time I tried to have lilac hair, and I think it's better than the mint colour my green fades to, but it just doesn't seem right on me - I've had green hair, or at least mostly green hair, for so long that I just can't get used to my hair being a different colour. I look at my reflection and it just looks off - like I'm wearing a wig when I'm not. Plus I just like the colour green more than the colour blue. I think if it had been on purpose, that might also have given me a different outlook on it, but it being unwanted, some mistake I made in the process, really doesn't help. I've tried to make the most of it, and used it as an excuse to play around with blue make-up, but I definitely want it green again. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Hair Adventures 1: A Paean To Green Hair

My hair was green for over 3 years, and now it's blue. I wish it was green again.

I tried to give myself pine green hair with a violet fringe and it went wrong... Well, it went fairly well until I washed it and now I have aqua blue hair with a royal blue fringe... I've had blue hair before, and I didn't mind it then, but this time around I just don't like it. I want my green hair back, and I've tried washing out the blue, but it just fades to lighter blue, and I'm scared to try stripping out in case I fry my hair. I'm just going to let it fade to a really light blue, then try and cover it over with a rather yellow green, and hope that the two together make the sort of mid-green that I love. In the meanwhile, I'm making this retrospective of pictures from when my hair was bright green and I loved it.

Here is my hair dyed with Directions Alpine Green - the colour my hair is currently meant to be! The last time I used it, it stayed very much like this, and I wonder what caused it to be so unstable this time - perhaps it's because I mixed in Crazy Colour Pine Green, perhaps its because I mixed in conditioner to try and repair my bleach-frazzled, hair... I don't really know. My last employers let me have green hair as long as it wasn't too vivid, so I dyed it this colour.
Spiky collar and short pine-green hair.  Selfies.
Below is another picture from early 2014, when my hair was short and green - although in this blueish lighted picture and with some fading, it looks a little more turquoise. This was around the start of me dyeing my hair green, and it's a colour I feel really suited me, hence why I have stuck with it for so long. 

Short dark emerald green hair, and a party outfit. Selfies.
As my hair started to grow longer, I started experimenting with more greens. For work I needed to keep it in darker greens and one colour, but for Hallowe'en 2014 I dyed it in this gradient effect. After the celebrations were over I dyed it all the darkest green of the very tips. 

Green ombre hair. Selfies.
Here is one from 2015, taken in my old apartment (I miss the pale purple walls in the hall-way). This particular shade of green ended up being "my colour" and I have gone back to it time and time again, even including it when I've had multicolour hair. I think this was summer time, hence the bright colour. I used to work at a school, so during summer I wasn't at work and could have my hair bright colours.

The start of the emerald green hair. Selfies. 
Even when I have dyed my hair in multicolour, 'mermaid' effects, I've always retained green as one of the main colours - on the top layer so it is the one that people can see most vividly. I don't mind having blues and purples in my hair - and I definitely liked it when all my hair was purple - but green has really become my favourite colour for my hair.

My first attempt at multicolour 'mermaid' style hair. Selfies.
This next one was from last summer. The weather was warm enough to warrant me wearing a white shirt instead of my usual all-black-everything, and my hair still had blue tips from when it was multi-colour. Blue is a fun accent colour, but I just don't really like my whole hair being blue. 

Summertime Gothic. Selfies.
Last autumn I pretty much settled into dyeing it the green that I want to stick with in the long run. I'd got into a routine with the Directions Apple Green, and it was looking very bright. I had fun doing matching makeup for it, including this angular look with iridescent green lip gloss over black lipstick. 

Bright green hair and matching makeup. Selfies
The photos below aren't selfies, they're a selection from the set that Raven took for me in January. The colour had faded out a little from washing, but was still quite bright. I wore a purple and black jacket with my green hair... as you can probably tell, my fondness for this colour pairing was building. 

Green hair in January. Photos by Raven. 
These pictures are from the same day - but are ones I took to focus on the make-up I did - green and purple like my outfit and hair. I rather liked this dramatic effect, and it is something I would like to repeat in future. 

Make-up for January photoshoot. Selfies.
This make-up made me feel like a fae-creature of some sort, and the green hair really does help with that kind of aesthetic. I filled my eyebrows in green and painted my lips to match. This is actually pretty recent - I think I did this make-up in March or April. There are a lot of good green make-up products available, so it's quite easy to find ways of co-ordinating green make-up for green hair. 

Green hair and green make-up.
I have had a lot of fun doing interesting make-up for my long green hair. I let it grow quite long - not as long as it was in my teens (I had it nearly waist-length once). The ends were getting a bit frazzled after repeated bleaching over the years, which means that I have since had it trimmed by about 5 or 6 inches. This purple make-up wasn't my neatest (the eyebrows came out a little uneven), but it was another pairing of purple and green. 

Green and purple once again in combination. Selfies.
This next make-up look was inspired by the idea of an 'evil dryad'. The great thing about unnatural green hair - not even leafy, or grassy green hair, but bright, vivid, artificial, green - is that it's good for looks that are based off distorted nature, because they're a nature colour, green, but not in a natural variation - well, unless it's in mineral form; malachite and emerald.  

Green hair and dark make-up. Selfies.
And this windswept picture (in which my new pointed fringe looks rather fluffy!) illustrates the colours my hair was meant to be - a violet fringe and an emerald-to-pine green for the rest of it... if only it had stayed these colours! Green and purple are my favourite colour combination, and this was the hair that my recently lace-on bat-wings were supposed to match.  

Green hair and purple fringe. Selfies.
I'm a little annoyed that the above colour combination was so shortly lived. I will try and somehow remedy the situation, but I am not sure how successful I will be. It really didn't work out as intended - even if the immediate results seemed successful. I think that perhaps at some point in the next two years, as it will be likely that I will need to have a more natural colour after I graduate in order to appease the professional job market, but now my green hair is (hopefully, only temporarily...) gone, I know that when that time comes, I will really miss it.

One thing I can say is that the pointy fringe turned out pretty well. It has faded blue, but it has a good shape. The picture above doesn't do it justice because I was literally holding it down against the wind. It was a rather bright but rather windy day when I took those, and you can see the trim on my sleeves! I have some more selfies of the new hair with the fringe better visible, but they're all decidedly blue!

The next instalment of my hair adventures is about my new hair... Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible hair, and my friend Melody who cut it did an excellent job, it's just that it's blue (which I dyed myself) and I just don't feel right with blue hair this time around, plus it is not what I had intended. However, I am trying to make the most of my blue hair.