“Darch's documentary-style images, both archival and contemporary, of the fictional town of Durlescombe harken back to some of the long-standing questions about the veracity of photography. Ranging from portraits to the smallest details of rural life, the series works together to paint a convincing picture of this non-exsistent village. But beyond this conceptual framework, his photographs are also powerful atmospheric constructions. There's a great tension between stillness and motion in many of his images, used succesfully along with bold composition strategies.”
Dr Cliff Lauson, Hayward Gallery, London.
Durlescombe is an ongoing series of photographs made in Devon in the South West of England. The work documents the people, landscapes and local industries of a fading rural culture and in doing so explores my own identity and attachment to a region where generations of my family once lived and worked.
In 1631 William Darch was born in Dolton, and he became the first in a long line of millers that would own and work grain mills across Devon. Many generations later, my four times great-grandfather Robert Darch owned and ran the mill in North Tawton until his death in 1805. I was born in Birmingham in 1979, and although I was aware that my roots were in Devon, during my formative years in the midlands I knew very little of this family history. More recently I have been increasingly drawn to work in and connect with places in this area, only later discovering their particular family connections and personal relevance.
But Durlescombe is a constructed, imaginary place. It is an amalgam, a typical village, unspecific and representative, one that provides a narrative distance from the persuasive mode of documentary realism and a space in which questions about familiarity, attachment and belonging might be asked.
The images of Durlescombe – a layered assemblage of my photographs, family history pictures, found illustrations and archival photographs – are in this way both actual records and speculative fictions, which track my own pursuits to feel and find points of connection. The work also admits the potential of other, unconscious forces driving the ‘subjectivisation’ of place.