Darkness Visible: On World Goth Day, Photos of Romance and Shadow

Michael Ackerman—Agence VU/Aurora Photos
Michael Ackerman—Agence VU/Aurora Photos
Poland

2010

Spring has finally sprung, and what better way to celebrate — on World Goth Day, no less — than with a bunch of haunting photos of graveyards, romantic ruins and landscapes laid waste by time?

Today’s distinctive, global Goth culture can trace its black-clad lineage back several hundred years, to a revolutionary series of literary works, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818 to Edgar Allan Poe’s bleak, evocative novels, stories and poems to, of course, Bram Stoker’s 1897 psycho-sexual horror masterpiece, Dracula.

In the middle part of the last century, England’s beloved Hammer Films kept the Goth spirit alive with a slew of dark, campy — and often critically panned — gems (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and more). In the Sixties, Goth received a slightly lighter treatment with the hit American TV series, The Addams Family, based on Charles Addams’ wry, gloomy New Yorker cartoons.

In the 1970s, the romance of Goth culture revived in a big way when British bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees and, above all, The Cure slouched onto the scene, crafting lovely, somber albums that appealed to misanthropes and misunderstood teens everywhere. Bands like Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson and The Knife have helped carry the movement into the present day. (If interested, check out The Guardian’s selection of its favorite goth tunes curated for last year’s World Goth Day.)

Millions of bottles of black eyeliner and nail polish later, Goth’s influence can be felt everywhere from Alexander McQueen’s fashion to Tim Burton’s films.

Here, LightBox presents a selection of images from more than 150 years of photo history—photographs made not by Goth photographers, but pictures that instead evoke the original, dark and beautiful spirit of Goth — the spirit articulated so perfectly by Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein himself: “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”

So, on World Goth Day 2013, why sit on your couch and mope when you can sit in front of your computer and mope?

Enjoy! (But no smiling allowed.)


Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.


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