I haven't really been feeling the Halloween build up this year; the inevitability of thousands of Jimmy Saviles roaming the streets of London just kind of bums me out. But I walked into the office today to find a gold envelope containing a small photo book by Will Sanders called Halloween, which is full of kids in Mexico City dressed up as Michael Jackson. If anything's going to nudge a bit of the spooky joy of All Hallow's Eve back into my heart, it's Mexican kids dressed like the scariest-looking man to have ever lived.
Turns out Will has won a load of awards for his photography, exhibited around the world, shot for a bunch of respectable magazines, and been included in a number of photography books (NBD), but I was more interested in the cool Jacko photo-booklet, so I called him up and asked him about it.
VICE: So, Will, where did you find all these miniature Michael Jacksons?
Will Sanders: I love Halloween, so I was out in Mexico City for Day of the Dead back in 2009 and it was just full of people wearing Michael Jackson outfits. It was really weird. I haven't been back since, so I'm not sure if it's still going on, but I'm guessing it's because that was that year that Jackson died.
Yeah, that makes sense. So was it really city-wide? That's devotion.
Well, I mean, there were loads of kids dressed up in American-style halloween costumes, like monsters and vampires and stuff, but we kept noticing more and more little Michael Jackson kids popping up all over the place. And you know all the carved ornaments and chocolate you get at Halloween? They were doing all that stuff with Michael Jackson—Halloween chocolate carvings of him. It was pretty cool.
You've taken a few different Halloween photos before, what is it that attracts you to it?
I don't really know. I love Halloween imagery and autumn's always been my favorite time of year—the colors are great—so it just kind of appeals to me. It's a shame it only happens once a year.
Yeah. It looks like a big deal in Mexico, too.
Oh, it is. In Mexico, there's skulls everywhere, everyone's dressed up, and they even have the bread of death, which is this bread with a load of stuff baked into it that they only have for those few days. However, it seemed a bit like the Day of the Dead side of things were fading and a more Americanized Halloween was coming in, which is a bit sad.
What's the vibe like?
It was weird, because the year I went was when everyone was freaking out about bird flu, so the main square, where everyone usually goes, was completely empty. I've been a few times before and it's usually rammed with loads of stalls and a tons of those orange flowers they make there for Day of the Dead, so it was strange to have no one there. It usually has a lovely atmosphere, but it was really eerie that year.
What's made you go back to Mexico so many times for Halloween?
I like the tradition of it there. It's more of a celebration of the dead—really positive—and the whole visual history of it is amazing. If you drive past any cemetery in Mexico City around that time, all the graves have little, framed pictures and stuff around them, which is a lovely thing to do, don't you think?
Yeah, that's nice. Have you got plans to go out and find more little oddities at Day of the Dead?
I haven't been back since that last time—I wanted to concentrate on something else—but putting the book together made me sort of miss it. Not just for the pictures, though; more because being there at that time of year is just really lovely. It's a special place.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton
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