Jeff Carlisle: Crafting the Macabre
Local creature of the night and goth-scene veteran Jeff Carlisle is an expert when it comes to materializing the things that go “bump” in the night. Carlisle has made a name for himself in Salt Lake not only through his passion for photography but also his special-effects business where he specializes in creating the most iconic feature of his favorite monster—vampire fangs.
It began in 1988. A young, 15-year-old Carlisle was first exposed to goth when one of his friends from middle school started dating a punk girl. “We started going to The Palladium on a regular basis,” he says. “Back then, it was called deathrock, but it very quickly became goth.” Carlisle soon grew his arsenal of nightlife attire. “I mostly got a lot of my clothes from the D.I.,” Carlisle says. “We didn’t have Hot Topic or anything like that back then. Everything was very DIY.”
Carlisle cut his teeth at the The Palladium—the destination club for goths who wanted a place to hang out, make out and listen to the dark music the scene craved. “The Palladium was the start of the black clothing, ” Carlisle says. “It was the start of the dark-edged, haunting, music. The songs were, of course, about ghosts and vampires, and that’s what drew people into the underground scene.” When The Palladium closed down, the scene migrated to The Pompadour, where black-and-white makeup was worn proudly and where all of the goth staples like the Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and Skinny Puppy were played. Club Confetti flourished in the early ’90s alongside the goth scene. “A lot of people in the scene started DJ’ing,” Carlisle says, “so, we would hear a lot of the music the scene loved.”
Carlisle’s love for vampires and other creatures of the night started a few years before his exposure to the goth scene. “I think I was 13 or 14 when I first read Dracula, and that had a significant influence on me,” Carlisle says. “Getting more involved in the goth scene, you kind of become these dark creatures.” The dark, graphic themes he found within vampire novels—like Dracula, Carmilla and other vampire stories before them—are present in his current-day photography and fang sculpting work. This is made apparent since his subjects tend to be hauntingly beautiful women covered in blood, fang baring with eyes that could pierce through the soul. “My artwork usually has something to do with vampirism and has a ring of that kind of atmosphere,” Carlisle says. Within every shoot, Carlisle involves key elements of the vampire into his photographs. “The parts I include are, of course, the eternal beauty, eternal intelligence, old clothing, obviously, fangs,” he says. “I’ve never done anything with modern vampirism or modern fashion. It’s always gone back to the Romantic styles of the 17- to 1800s.”
Carlisle’s craft is a simple process of molding, shaping, buffing and shining each individual acrylic fang. The process is similar to how acrylic nails are done. It all starts with taking a mold of the client’s teeth then carving the acrylic to fit the client’s tooth specifically—just by suction. There aren’t any worries when it comes to the fang falling out. “A little bit of everybody [has] contacted me [regarding fangs],” he says. “October is always the biggest month.” Carlisle found that not only is this a better method for creating fangs in general, but the finished product is completely harmless to his clients’ teeth and will have a gorgeously realistic appearance. His work is not only for haunted house actors: They’re also available for anyone to use for Halloween costumes, photoshoots and even just for lifestyle use. Obtaining your own personal set of fangs is just a direct message away via Facebook: facebook.com/azazel1334.
Jeff Carlisle has remained a consistent member of Salt Lake City’s goth scene ever since his first encounter with it in the late ’80s. His dedication to his craft and all things ghoulish have only grown with him, and he can still be found in the shadows at Area 51 from time to time. Some examples of Carlisle’s macabre photography work can be found on his deviantart page: aziraphale1334.deviantart.com.