“Classy Occultism” – Terrorizer Magazine, Sept 2008
Sean M. Palfrey (°1986, Detmold, Germany) AKA Imago Mortis makes photos, films, mixed media artworks, music, and sculpture. By referencing the traditions of alchemy and the occult, surrealism, gothic romanticism, grand-guignolesque black humour, and symbolism, Palfrey creates his work through experimental and often labour-intensive processes which can be seen explicitly as a personal exorcism ritual.
With the motto “Art is Dead | Death is Art” Palfrey distils the macabre traditions of fine art found in the surrealists, dada, romantics, pre-Raphaelites, and medieval eras to create dark conceptual photography and films; utilising elements such as infra-red, low-key lighting, long-exposures, double exposures, and traditional analogue methods. Palfrey also creates alchemy and occult inspired paintings as well as sculptural taxidermy through the crystallisation and oxidisation of skulls, bones and shells.
Palfrey has also recently embarked on a new musical journey under the moniker ‘Tenderness of Wolves‘ named after the song by industrial pioneers Coil. with several releases through his own Lunagram Recordings.
In 2020 he released the first in a series of retrospective ‘zines of his photography and design work called ‘Book of Shadows, Vol. 1‘, with a second volume following in 2023.
Sean M. Palfrey currently lives and works in Lincoln, UK and is available for selected commissions.
– Biography graciously provided by Mr. Corbin Grimm
(Portrait of Sean M. Palfrey by Liv Free)
BA (Hons) Creative Writing & English Literature – University of Wales, Aberystwyth 2007
MA Journalism – University of Lincoln 2010
Hands On Basic Cinematography – Raindance Short Course 2019 (with Zoran Veljkovic)
University of Lincoln – Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator (Media) College of Health and Science
University of Lincoln – Marketing Assistant (Media) for the College of Social Science 2022 – 2023
University of Lincoln – Online Media Developer for the College of Social Science: 2016 – 2022
Intravenous Magazine – Editor, Designer, Photographer, Writer: 2012 – 2019
Dominion Magazine / Terrorizer – Writer, Photographer: 2010 – 2012
Today’s interviewee is the charming Sean Palfrey from Imago Mortis , a man of many talents whose work we will of course be sharing this coming weekend so make sure you stay tuned for that! Questions as always by Drawing in Dark .
1. You work in several different disciplines – there’s your photography, your films, you paint and create gorgeous crystal covered skulls. Did you always make such varied work or has it been a gradual process ?
Sean. ‘It has been a gradual process really. I started dabbling in photography initially as a break from my degree course, which involved a lot of creative writing. I was looking to do something visual and more instantly gratifying. After that I began designing t-shirts purely because there weren’t many brands around at that time that I liked that catered for that style. Then over the next ten or so years I began to just dip my toes in other areas.
I think I’m just a curious person and I’ve always coped with day-to-day stress by thinking about things to create and then researching them. I’ve always liked to try new things and see if the ideas I have are possible to actually bring to some kind of fruition. I like to have an ongoing challenge, and it’s been one that I’ve really thrown myself into since walking away from journalism. That’s freed up more time and more imagination.’
Question 2. Creation is an evolution of sorts, do you see your work continuing to change and grow or do you feel you’re where you need to be with it right now ? Any plans for the future ?
Sean. ‘I’ve been doing the photography and design work since 2007, but I feel my photography kind of found it’s style in 2014, and since then I’ve really tried to push and experiment so that every shoot feels unique in some way. And then over the past few years, I’ve been working on translating those processes and ideas into my films, so that feels like a natural evolution in that respect.
I still feel like my painting and bone art is in its infancy. There are a lot more things to learn and techniques to try out. But looking back at how far I’ve come over the last few years I at least feel more comfortable in calling myself an artist, which I think is a big step in itself! I’ve only recently become comfortable using the term artist, before then I was more focused on the technical terms such as photographer or designer. But I finally feel like I can fully embrace the title.
I’m looking to do more in the way of exhibitions and hopefully, in the very near future, I’ll be publishing a ‘Zine called ‘Book of Shadows’ which should become a regular thing in its own right. And that will act as a kind of retrospective of different aspects of my work as it continues to evolve.’
Question 3. I’m asking all our artists about their connection to the dark side – do you see yourself as a gothic artist ? Has it always been that way ?
Sean. ‘I think I’ve always been goth at heart even before I knew what gothic was and really diving into the scene in my teens. I’ve always been drawn to the fashion, music, and art for as long as I can remember as it has always been in the background to some extent. I think there has always been a “cult of the macabre” running throughout human history that a lot of people don’t like to acknowledge, and all forms of gothic art provide an essential catharsis for me in that respect. So for me it’s quite a comfortable label for my work as an artist, even if I bring other elements of surrealism or the occult in to it. I think that’s the great thing about ‘gothic’ as a term, it has become so broad over the past forty years, yet it remains instantly recognisable.’
Question 4. If we were doing all this in person at the show weekend we’d no doubt be dragging you down the pub after – tell us one thing about yourself that’s not work so we can get to know you better What do you do when you’re not creating ?
Sean. ‘That’s kind of difficult as I’m always in work mode! If I’m not creating either as an artist or as part of my day job, I just like being out in nature, going to gigs, or exploring historic buildings. Obviously in the current climate those kind of things are off the table, so I’m focusing on teaching myself how to make music again after many years.’
*No longer updated
Below are links to places you can read my short fiction and other writing outputs: