TwelveSmallSquares

The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

Your New Favourite Person... Ellen Rogers

Do you know who Ellen Rogers is?  If not then prepare to be amazed!  I have been a fan of her work ever since I started getting into photography some four years or so ago.  You know how it is when you first get into something – you’re super-keen and you hit the internet hard, soaking up everything about your chosen subject that you can fit into your head.  I came across an article Ellen had written about some of her work and the pictures I saw stopped me in my tracks.  I had never seen anything like it, and to be honest I still haven’t even now.  After a bit of research I discovered all her images were shot on film and she did all her own darkroom work to get each image how it is.  I just love the look of her photos, how every image is similar yet different.  I'm going to stop there or i'll just keep going on and on and i'll start sounding like a stalker - let's let her photos speak for themselves:

And that's just a tiny glimpse into her work. 

A few years ago I got talking to Ellen on Twitter and managed to persuade her to let me have a little email interview with her (which I really appreciate as from the sound of it she is one busy body)!

Anyway, here we go...

To start with tell us all a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do.

Hi there! I am Ellen Rogers, I am a photographer. I only shoot with analogue equipment and all my photography is hand worked, be it colour or the print itself.

How long have you been taking photographs?

For a very long time as my father is a photographer but really I have been shooting with my own eyes ever since I was around 14.

I know it’s always a bit of a silly question to some but how would you describe your photographic style to those who haven’t yet seen your work?

I would urge the viewer to have a look, I relinquish the responsibility to either answer that question or interpret it for you. 

All of your work is produced in the darkroom – what is it that draws you to working with film, paper and chemicals as opposed to computers?

I just like making a mess really, getting my hands dirty and all that. I suppose I can feel more attached to the work also. There are a myriad of reasons why I prefer it but the main one is it suits me and I’m rubbish with computers anyway.

Do you do all your processing yourself or do you have darkroom minions?

All of it that is done by myself, no one is allowed to bother me in the darkroom hehe.

Every photographer has at least one shot they have taken that really speaks to them on a personal level.  Which of your photographs has a special meaning to you and why?

It is the pessimist in me that tells you this (as her voice is strongest) that I don’t have a favourite. I am a constant disappointment to myself, I must try harder. Some have a certain sentimental value to me such as one image of my late mother’s funeral flowers but on a technical level I never feel content. I think this comes from having a father who is a much better technical photographer than I am ever likely to be.

From looking through your gallery it seems that a lot of your photographs have a contrast of gritty textures and soft pastel colours – is this something you intentionally set out to accomplish with each photo or is it just a by-product of your processing that you have adopted into your style?

Yeah my style was and continues to be quite an organic evolution, a gradual shift in technique - and it is just that, a style, not something I am heavily invested in. I hope it constantly evolves and I hope to improve.  But to answer your question no it’s not intentional it’s just instinctive. However you could argue that I am intentionally letting my instincts take over... 

How much thought/research do you put into an idea/shoot before loading your camera?

Ah well that depends on the shoot. If it’s fashion... very little, if it’s something a little more substantial, quite a bit more. I shot a story on the 1888 match girls in London. That took considerable research. 

Without giving away your processing secrets (unless you really want to), can you give us a general outline of how you go from original concept to final print?

Well, the way any photographer works isn’t much of a secret. It’s an idea first then I try and fumble around until it’s executed. Literally in my case, it was Iris Murdoch that said ‘“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.” That’s how I feel about my photography; it is a literal manifestation of my own failure.

Gear-wise do you have a favourite camera, film or paper that you tend to be drawn to or do you just use what is to hand at the time?

Yeah I have a few kits but they are ‘hand me downs’, they are also a secret.

What, for you, has been the biggest challenge you have had to face while continuing to use film and darkroom products in an age of digital growth?

Commercial work! ‘Commercial work’ for clients who want things changed or want things exceedingly fast. This poses a problem on a not so regular basis but enough to be a problem. It takes time to do what I do and it’s pretty much unchangeable once it’s done. I’m not going to out the companies that pose these problems though...

You do a fair bit of commission work – what has been your favourite commission to work on and which has been the most challenging.

Piers Atkinson’s look book was great as I loved the team. I just completed a book for a hair stylist too with almost the same team and that was somewhat challenging as I had to make an entire book from 12 hours of solid shooting. It was a great deal of fun but a few people fell asleep on set. I had to make lots of images that looked connected but different enough to keep the viewer interested for a whole book.  I guess you will see if I failed or succeeded, it comes out in February next year.

Which photographers do you think have influenced your style and which photographers do you admire?

Photographers I admire the most are war correspondents, most notably Don McCullin but no I don’t think he has influenced my style. 

You made a book called Aberrant Necropolis.  Why did you decide to make it and what was the process like?

I decided to make it because people asked me for it. That is really the only reason. The process was pretty straight forward really; it’s just a selection of images from my first 2 years of fashion photography 2008-2010.

The world is saturated with photos due to the availability of cameras, apps like instagram and social networking sites.  What advice can you give to those who are trying to carve out a unique style in a world where everything seems to have been done already?

I would say don’t blindly copy your idols; you will only live in their shadows.

Any last words?

Thank you very much David! 

So hopefully that's been informative for some of you fans out there and if you weren't aware of Ellen Rogers before hopefully you've enjoyed learning a little about her and gained some inspiration.  All that's left to say is thank you very much for taking part Ellen and her are some links where you can see her work and buy her book:

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