A succubus is a female demon that has sex with men in their sleep. The male version is an incubus. They arise from medieval Christian demonology and the first mention of a succubus is in the 1300s.
They have sexual intercourse with their victims in order to possess their bodies. Lillith, the supposed first wife of Adam was said to be the first succubus.
In 1993 I had a technique I had not used for a few years that involved using card in front of the lens and shooting one half then the other on the same frame of 35mm film. I used it to create disembodied hands in my early work. Trying to think of a way to resurrect the technique but on a new subject, it occurred to me to try it with nudes, which I had begun shooting seriously the year before.
For my first attempt I had a girl standing in my corridor and shot her top half, had her turn round then shot the bottom half. Luckily the join was so exact that the final print needed no retouching. Thus, my Succubus project began. Some art directors asked if I had done it with the use of a computer. I did not own one nor could I afford to have my personal work digitally retouched. Photoshop was little known back then.
A couple of years later I was asked by a fashion magazine to illustrate an article on nightmares. I came up with the idea of creating a torso with four legs lying across a chair. Some men who saw it joked it was more like a fantasy than a nightmare. This was nothing like my own fantasies, they are pretty mundane but it gave me the idea of making them more explicit. I wanted to attract and repel the viewer at the same time.
A couple of years later in 1997, I enrolled on a computer course and the first thing I learned was the preeminent page layout programme at the time, which was Quark Xpress. I used it to create a calendar which I had printed and sent out to prospective clients. I bought my first Mac to create it. I then learned Photoshop but I did not use it much because drum scanning images was expensive and besides, I really did not need a computer to make surreal images. I had developed my own way of working and did not ordinarily need composited images. I retouched pictures now and again for clients but it took a few more years for me to fit digitally retouched images into my personal photography.
It was only in in 2003 when I got hold of a scanner that I started to use Photoshop a bit more often and the thing I used it for the most was my Succubus photos. People already thought I did them in photoshop, in any case. Like a lot of my projects, it is ongoing and I pick it up and put it down, sometimes with years in between and do a few more when the muse takes me.
Alva Bernadine makes photographs and films. By using themes such as surrealism, sexuality and violence, Bernadine touches various overlapping topics and strategies. Several reoccurring subject matters can be recognised, such as mirrors, shadows, optical effects and representations of the female form. The work is filled with invented surreal scenarios, witty events, troubling scenes from movies that were never made and almost hallucinatory images that invoke narrative, prompting you to imagine what came before or what is about to happen. They are not only about desire but the problems that go with it. Bernadine was born in Grenada, West Indies and grew up on the outskirts of London. He won the Vogue/Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Award as a young photographer and has since worked for many prestigious magazines and became Erotic Photographer of the Year for his first book, Bernadinism: How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women.