Ellen Rogers is awesome (featured on EK in February 2010, March 2010, and in EK TOP 100 of 2010)! Her work is too. Ghostly, ethereal…it makes me wonder if I tried to touch one of her photos my hand would just go through. She granted us an interview and the questions/answers are below. I suggest you read on.
How long have you been a photographer?
It’s strange that you ask me this because I asked myself this very same question only yesterday. Alone in my office I sat contemplating what a photographer is.
Is she a person who uses a camera competently?
Is she someone who has qualified themselves as a certified photographer due to the shear amount of time she has been doing it?
Is she someone who makes a living by using a camera?
Or is she someone who has formal education in this area therefore automatically qualifying her as a trained photographer?
I began then to question the philosophy of my own career status as,
A. I have too much time on my hands and
B. I have only just come to accept that I am a ‘photographer’.
Until recently I felt like a fraud when people asked me what I do and I said ‘Hey, you know what, I am a photographer’ maybe because at that point in my life I was sufficiently able to use a camera, over qualified in the educational system (I have a masters in photography) and I had been doing it since I was a child. Yet I made no money from doing it. Now I make ends meet to a degree I feel confident in saying. ‘Hey, I am a photographer’. Perhaps I could have saved a lot of time here if I just admitted that the missing link to this question was the word ‘Professional’.
What was your first camera?
My father’s cameras were probably what I may have cheekily considered my own. However my first given camera was a Yashica-Mat. I was given it on my 14th birthday. I still love that camera today; it has the most beautiful ever-ready-case; one of dark brown leather, lined with coarse red velvet.
Tell us about your first photo series.
Oh dear, I am sure they were terrible, no they were definitely terrible. I made a series of panoramic 35mm Xpan-esque tableaux’s. They were awful now I think of them. They were largely made up of my friends being made to pose for me unwillingly. I remember the colours jarring and not laying straight somehow.
How has your style changed since then?
I have most defiantly changed my approach to colour and found that a square format suits me much better. There was an element of crass I wanted to undo in my older work, whether I have achieved that ‘undo’ or not I am unsure of.
How have you challenged yourself, expanded your abilities and boundaries as an artist?
I keep coming to technical hurdles that I want to accomplish. I am a keen experimenter but I want a natural evolution to the work too. I hope to release a book every couple of years to monitor my own evolution. It’s a hard task though. I want to maintain a certain look but keep some traces of vitality in every shoot. Recently my concern was colouring so I have changed my approach to colours. Sometimes I change my approach to textures or clarity and I know concepts have a larger part to play in all of this too.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a photographer?
Myself (hehe). I am a walking oxymoron. I am unsatisfied with the state of advertising and what lending your creativity to advertising is like. I feel like a prostitute if a celebrity or large corporation asks me to work with them. It feels as though I am only here to feed the larger beast of corporations. Yet I need to face facts and to deny that I am not a commercial photographer is lunacy. I am obsessed with fashion and styling, I see both areas as important art forms and I consider great designers and stylists to be some of the most influential artists in the world. Yet we all fall into the realm of ‘carrot dangling’ where you sell ideals of unachievable ‘so called’ beauty and lifestyle. This is why I prefer to keep my work in the realms of the esoteric and as far removed as possible sense of reality. My images are therefore not a contribution to what I would consider real culture. They are more a form of high fantasy.
Can you explain your process?
No, it’s a secret.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Fantasy mostly, my own warped ideas, fragments of comic books, basic psychological horror and religious stories. I suppose it’s mostly conceptual in that respect.
Can you tell us about your best photoshoot?
Gosh that would be rather telling for my fashion work, I don’t think I am able to do that as I have worked with so many people I admire that it would be unfair to set them apart from others. As far as personal work goes I feel this shoot is the closest articulation to the way I feel about the issue I was trying to portray. This shoot was about my love for a particular northern English Vista… http://www.ellenrogers.co.uk/photoshoot/dissolution-promotional-teaser
What about your worst?
There are plenty of ‘worsts’ for a myriad of reasons, mainly because of the things I subjected myself to or because of the politics surrounding the shoot. Or because I messed it up so monumentally in the darkroom.
How would you describe your work to someone who’d never seen it before?
I honestly would try and avoid doing that. If they really wanted to see it I am sure most people could judge for themselves. Some people really see what I am trying to convey and enjoy the work and a lot of people I have encountered really detest what I am trying to do or say. I think all of these opinions are valued and even help to build something that stands alone, to stand apart from a greater canon of commercial photography. Like the outsider looking in.
What equipment do you use?
I use cameras, tripods, lenses, a light-meter, film, a scanner, chemicals, towels and hands.
Everything is hands on and there is no digital manipulation whatsoever at any stage.
How have you seen the field of photography change since you started?
It hasn’t changed so far; it seems about the same as when I first started. I get offered more work now but that’s because I do nothing but work and the knock on effect is that I meet more people.
Where do you see the field headed in the future?
I have to say I am worried about the state of the print industry. I can almost see print dying out entirely but for a few specialist magazines who cling to the bitter end. I think it may in time become much more about ‘magazines on tablets’ (that isn’t meant to sound like a drug reference) and maybe specialist books for individual strong artists as coffee table items.
What are your plans for the future? Shows? Series?
I had a solo show in London lined up but I had hummed and harred so much about the frames and the glass in them that I decided to cancel entirely. I am rather protective about showing the original prints as they are so fragile and don’t do well in exposed light.
As for a new series, I have decided to begin work on a new set of images that in their own lucid way tell the tales of my political slant and personal protests. I am working on the first set of those images now. I really do hope to do a show of these at some point.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Sorry no. I don’t believe in anything that is attached in any way to a belief system outside of any irrefutable proof. I am after all a staunch atheist. I think it is safe to say however that I am obsessed by the idea of ‘the supernatural’ and ‘the occult’ as a source of mystery and inspiration. They are great forms of escapism and intrigue for those looking for such empowerment and strength as an artist.