Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms, Real and Imagined

Alpine Books


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A darkly evocative compendium of images exploring natural, constructed, imaginary, and subconscious underworlds, curated by renowned image collector and social media figure Stephen Ellcock.

Underworlds takes readers on a captivating visual odyssey to the underbelly of everything, beginning with depictions of life and natural systems existing beneath the surface of the Earth and ending with imagery that emanates from the depths of our subconscious. Work by world-renowned artists—from Peter Paul Rubens and René Magritte to contemporary artists such as Kara Walker and Roger Ballen—is featured alongside recently unearthed images from archives around the world. Expertly curated, themed, and paired by image alchemist Stephen Ellcock, these remarkable depictions evoke the underworlds—both real and imagined—that have fascinated humankind for millennia.

From the burrows and secret bunkers beneath our feet to imagined hellscapes and surrealist dreamscapes, the disquieting, alarming,and wonderful visuals span natural and constructed subterranea and imagined and subconscious worlds. The works of art featured range from the scientific and photographic to the surreal and visionary. A personal introduction by Ellcock together with contextual chapter introductions establish key themes while panel texts elucidate essential concepts, historical events, and figures. Thought-provoking literary, philosophical, and spiritual quotations punctuate the intriguing images.

Together, the arresting images and authoritative text highlight the interplay between the real and the imagined, revealing how the real has informed our imagination, and conversely how our imagination has depicted the esoteric, the abject, and the unknown.