Sepulchral: A Journey in the Necropolis by Ellen Rogers: Ideas


“But the truth is everyone battles the war of ideas, however it’s easier if you immerse yourself in a world you have built and understand. You need not look too far for inspiration this way, you own this world, this in my case, is the ‘Aberrant Necropolis,’” according to our ever-lovely muse, Ellen Rogers. Get stunned by her photographs once again after the break.

Why oh why would I tackle this. I will try, most probably in vein, to tackle this as I am asked on a weekly basis where these foreign entities come from. I would say it is the second most frequently asked question I am faced with.

So please bear with me as it’s been a long , long, long, time, since I even contemplated sitting here typing anything more than a few words or an email or two , perhaps to you, or perhaps someone else.

Truth is, inspiration takes many forms, and to me I spit feathers when it comes to writing. It’s not so easy for me, it requires that I look inwards and I find myself ripping out innards that should stay just there. If I write about something painful I will be coughing up that blood for weeks. I find myself at times on these blogs wondering how they do it.

Here or Here or even looking at effortless interviews by Mark Z Danielewski and wonder why this comes so naturally to him.

I saw this clip of Danielewski talking about his writing process here, it’s worth looking at if you have 5 minutes and 46 seconds to spare. It deviates toward the end, but what he describes after the first question, as his creative process, is in essence, just dedication and patience. Nurturing your understanding of what you make or export as a product. In my case I make photographs, in his case, books, these are our main exports. I like this analogy of waiting for the chimps/gorillas because it shows the appreciation and reverence he feels towards his craft. He is very respectful of ideas and encourages/nurtures them, he is always focused on them, and they are not spoken about like magical gifts bestowed upon him. He waits constantly, willing them. I remember, when I was at university I would force myself to write down one idea a day in my diary. My intention was to try and stimulate my brain to be able to conger such thoughts at will.

But the truth is everyone battles the war of ideas, however it’s easier if you immerse yourself in a world you have built and understand. You need not look too far for inspiration this way, you own this world, this in my case, is the ‘Aberrant Necropolis’. I have built it and I know how it operates, what characters would live in it, how they might look, what they might do. They are now an extension of me. So anything that happens in my world can be paralleled in the Necropolis.

So I begin.

Usually when I am working on a big project I will spend a long time researching it, I am working up to a project I will make next year which I will hopefully talk about here, it is a rather ambitious project but I do like an exciting challenge. However in the time I am not researching or orchestrating a team, coordinating the location or planning travel etcetera, I have to practice.

I need to practice like any another artist or crafts person would. Or In the same way a singer might do their daily scales or an athlete might train and stretch before a race. I need to exorcise my creative muscles in the forms of smaller and less ambitious shoots in order for my work to stay at a constant standard.

So here is a recent shoot:

photos by Ellen Rogers

Where do I start?

I was driving home from Manchester; it’s a long drive but it’s really the nearest city to me, I was in the car with my boyfriend Tobias (aka prizme). We had a big argument and we had stopped talking about a quarter of the way home. In this time I began to ask myself why I had to move to the location I had, I am a long way away from any cities; I am nowhere near any of my friends. I left all my family in Norfolk and I am entirely alone. I am entirely alone all but for Tobias’s dad who doesn’t live too far away and Tobias who was currently embarking upon an unspoken pact of the ‘silent treatment’ we had decided to give one another whilst we were stuck in the confines of my tiny car.

You see, so in love we are that we decided to separate ourselves from anyone and begin our life of solitude in a rather beautiful but terribly run down manor in nowhere land. This is very charming when things are good but being human and quite cantankerous people, well, we have the odd hiccup.
When I got home Tobias stormed out of the car and wiggled off whilst walking angrily into the long drive until I couldn’t see him anymore, I sat in the car wondering why I was here. Instead of going into the house to make amends with someone who I felt quite frankly didn’t deserve that, I decided it may have been more beneficial to find a reason to want to be here other than a man with an angry wiggle.

I got out of the car and it was still light, I took a small camera and a torch I kept in the car glove compartment and set off looking around our landlords immense grounds. After what felt like several hours I found a place, an old school? It was catholic I think and it reminded me of something that Tobias had said, that there had been a strong Irish-catholic stronghold in the area so I presumed this may have been a school for such children. I kept looking around looking for a way in but it was no use. All the areas where boarded off with these kinds of metal grills covered in barbed wire.

Photos by Ellen Rogers

However I kept walking hoping for clues until a huge flock of carrion crows beyond me started screeching when they saw me, I ran off, rather ashamedly as the screeches where so loud and high. My heart raced but by now I knew I really wanted to find a way in; perhaps there might have been something dead in there that they wanted to eat? Or they might have been trained to warn off unwanted visitors, my imagination was running wild and I became more curious. I was circling the grounds like the crows, looking to get in when eventually I found a broken window with enough room to climb through. It led to this room here…

And consequently to these areas,

Photos by Ellen Rogers

I suppose the layout here is inconsequential and what areas I encountered first are also irrelevant but the feeling was not. I was covered in mud by this point. I wore sticks and my hair was matted as it might often be but now more so than ever and all I could think was, I wish Tobias was here to see this place, I know he had mentioned it before and we might have driven past it but never got inside. I wanted to call him but I remembered the silent treatment I was meant to be giving him. I was wearing white and it was quite marred with various shades of brown and green. It was dark now. I was scared, I needed to get out of there quickly; I wondered painfully what it might have been like if I was to be stuck in here, I might not see him again. Do I love this place or hate it I wondered, what if it trapped me? It’s huge, I imagine I could live here maybe, I thought. Might there be other girls trapped here after running from an argument? I wasn’t trapped. I got home, completely covered in mud and sticks where hanging from my white woollen tights. The house was tidy, the washing up was done and I had a rather sorry looking boyfriend looking at me. We smiled sheepishly at one another watched a film and I remembered why I moved here.

The next day I called up a makeup artist I knew and told her all about my experience, I showed her the photos and the next week, I had a little team up north working on a recreation of my experience. I suppose many of the shoots designed to limber my mind are made in the same vein. Some people write about what they know, I decided to photograph what I knew.

Photos by Ellen Rogers

I tell this story as it is an interpretation of an idea or feeling or experience made tangible. I hope it helps in some way, I should say also that although we often stand on the shoulders of giants but we should, in order to make our work truly original extract it from within ourselves, and try and avoid making images derivative of references you like, a house of cards is likely to fall, you need to understand your world from the inside out. So build we shall, our own very solid foundation and the ideas come more naturally.

Please do let me know what you think; I am sorry this one is so long.

If you wish to share your similar stories please email me at

written by ellenrogers on 2011-11-10 #lifestyle #ellen-rogers #sepulchral-series


  1. carsten-schmitt
    carsten-schmitt ·

    Can I be so cheeky as to ask what film you used for these photos? Many thanks!

  2. ellenrogers
    ellenrogers ·

    I can't even remember what film it is, I will literally use any b/w film I can find. Regardless of age, or brand, hehe, I am too poor to be fussy.

  3. cpolpa
    cpolpa ·

    DA MINHA ALDEIA vejo quando da terra se pode ver no Universo....
    Por isso a minha aldeia é grande como outra qualquer
    Porque eu sou do tamanho do que vejo
    E não do tamanho da minha altura...

    Nas cidades a vida é mais pequena
    Que aqui na minha casa no cimo deste outeiro.
    Na cidade as grandes casas fecham a vista a chave,
    Escondem o horizonte, empurram nosso olhar para longe de todo o céu,
    Tornam-nos pequenos porque nos tiram o que os nossos olhos nos podem dar,
    E tornam-nos pobres porque a única riqueza é ver.

    Alberto Caeiro, em "O Guardador
    de Rebanhos".

  4. thomas-f-rosin
    thomas-f-rosin ·

    Ellen, This is your best article yet. A real peak through the viewfinder, an adventure, leaving me with much to contemplate.
    Thank you for writing this.

  5. bsdunek
    bsdunek ·

    Really great photos of the abandoned buildings and grounds. The ones of the model are great too. The almost 'mad' look on her face really adds to the effect. Something like my Granddaughter when she was in her "Goth" period (glad that's over). I do think the tights/stockings are too modern, although that may be the look you want. I'm thinking of a long corse weave skirt.

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