Martin Parr - 2019
“The Moor is the first book of the emerging photographer Robert Darch. The MP Foundation had the privilege to launch this book. We very much enjoy encouraging and promoting new talent and look forward to many more publications.”
Tracy Marshall - 2019
“Robert Darch's pictures evoke the still quiet peace of The Moor in a way the viewer can almost touch, smell and feel the atmosphere. As with all his work the photographs create a sense of the here and now coupled with a distinct nostalgia for the past - Thomas Hardy's Wessex emanating from within each image. Darch is a quiet unassuming photographer whose work has immense depth and intensity, his passion for the moor is clearly visible in each of his pictures in a way few capture consistently and continually.”
Simon Roberts - 2019
“Robert has produced a welcome addition to the canon of British photobooks. His first publication, The Moor, is a darkly poetic study of the unique landscape of Dartmoor which plays with fiction and reality. A must-have!”
F-Stop Magazine, Cary Benbow - 2019
“The book left me with an eerie feeling; I felt the drawing power of inaudible whispers possibly luring the characters into the wilderness of the Moor, truths are tested, madness and hallucinations ensue, and a bit of ghost story is thrown in for good measure. Whether real or imagined, ultimately Darch created a palpable vision: The Moor depicts dark reflections of real world landscapes, mythology, and memories to create compelling storytelling.”
Photobookstore Magazine, Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning - 2019
“Robert Darch’s The Moor photobook continues the successful publishing streak by Another Place Press, an independent publisher specialising in landscape photography. This volume follows on from Dan Wood’s excellent Gap in the Hedge, images of the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. The Moor takes us on an invented journey around Dartmoor, Devon. Darch’s inspiration, Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian literature, comes across in the place and space created in this photobook. McCarthy’s literature has done much to shape our collective imagination of the American landscape whether it is though his seminal Border Trilogy on the Mexico/US border or through The Road (2006), which is the inspiration for Darch‘s photobook.
The Moor does not contain any text and its narrative is signposted by the images contained within. The establishing photograph of a lone figure lost in the wilderness introduces readers to the mise-en-scène of the book. It is uncertain which direction our protagonist is going to take, a fog engulfs the land up ahead. What follows is a series of empty landscapes and photographs of survivors following an extinction event. One of this book’s graces is that despite its Hollywood inspiration, the scenery still maintains its identity as located in the British landscape. Some of Darch’s most successful images depict the spectral traces on earth as best exemplified by the image of a petroglyph covered in moss and surrounded by snow, a trace and evidence of humans’ interactions with the pre-historical landscape. In another image, an untouched bar of soap withstands the elements in the ruins of a building, its branding just about legible.
The popularity of dystopian narratives shows no sign of abating and it is interesting to see how Darch has taken influence from this popular genre. The approach lends itself well to being read through a photobook where the sequencing and layouts do a good job of creating space and atmosphere. Unlike Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which surprisingly complies with the Hollywood classic narrative to re-establish order out of disorder, my reading of Darch’s The Moor is somewhat more open ended. It lets the reader decide for themselves whether hope prevails and ultimately humanity is saved from its eventual extinction or whether survival in The Moor is futile.”
Ignant, Rosie Flanagan - 2019
“Darch takes the eerie fog-cloaked landscape inhabited by McCarthy’s characters and recasts it through his lens. “The Moor depicts a fictionalised dystopian future situated on the bleak moorland landscapes of Dartmoor”, he explains. “Drawing on childhood memories of Dartmoor alongside influences from contemporary culture, the narrative references local and universal mythology to give context, but suggests something altogether more unknown.” The series is dark, proposing a future dystopia through images of the present. Darch’s lens shifts from vertiginous, dark forest, to open grass plains, makeshift dwellings and figures illuminated and distorted by light. The ferocity of nature is present too, its wildness unbound as Darch frames the environment and society on the point of collapse. “Shifting between pseudo-documentary and constructed photography”, Darch explains, “The Moor blurs that liminal space between fiction and reality.”
Gabriela Cendoya, Bergareche Collection - 2019
“The Moor takes place in Dartmoor, or is it only in our dreams? The landscape looks real as we wander in the lone and bare land or venture in the woods, but there is something strange happening here. The land attracts us like in a heavy sleep, an eerie and mysterious one. It is a powerful attraction one has to submit to, leaving all resistance. Is it a frightening vision of the future? Has there been a war and are these the only living people? Robert Darch leaves us with more questions than answers, intrigued and charmed by the beautiful and natural light, by the strange dream, the fragile and delicate figures in the landscape. One may think of the disquieting and oppressive space of Geert Goiris’ The Prophet, the uncertainty of a dystopian future, the end of our known world. But here the threat and mystery arises from the land and the light itself, beautifully rendered by Robert Darch in the nice edition of Another Place Press. Can we escape from the secret power of the Moor? And do we really want to?”
Colin Pantall - 2019
“Filled with an other worldly emotion” - The Moor
Wallpaper Magazine, Charlotte Jansen - 2019
“A dystopian vision of Dartmoor unfolds in Robert Darch’s haunting photographs. The Moor, a sci-fi visual narrative that shows the landscape as a dystopia in the near future. Dark, tense and perilous, Dartmoor is turned into a dramatic stage setting, primal and symbolic. As an adult, Darch found himself living in the area, moving closer and closer to the moor, drawn there as if by some uncanny force.”
Murray Ballard - 2019
“A beautifully photographed apocalyptic vision that feels alarmingly prescient in these dark times.” - The Moor
Port Magazine, Thomas Bolger - 2019
“Robert Darch’s fictionalised photographic narrative reflects an eerily recognisable dystopia. Insular populist governments, unchecked climate change and a general abandonment of humanitarian ideals is leaving many with the feeling that they currently live within a dystopian world. These are some of the dark forces implicitly expressed in Robert Darch’s fictionalised future and pseudo-documentary series, The Moor, a photographic narrative that blends childhood memories of Dartmoor with recurring characters surviving in a bleak, unforgiving wilderness.
Drawing on the many myths of the moorland landscape and contemporary classics such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Darch moves from vistas to ramshackle dwellings with uncanny ease, while an undercurrent of dread and fragility scores the scenes of sublime natural beauty. The ambiguity of the pictures only adds to their eeriness, as we attempt to read the meaning behind the isolated figures.”
It’s Nice That, Ruby Boddington - 2018
“The notion of a dystopian society has long provided inspiration for writers, filmmakers and artists. There was of course, George Orwell’s media and information controlled-world in 1984, Anthony Burgess’ satirical and dark exploration of ultra-violent youth culture in A Clockwork Orange, and Masamune Shirow’s mind hacking cyborg-filled Japan in A Ghost in the Shell. The world conjured up in photographer Robert Darch’s upcoming book, The Moor, however, feels much closer to home – and far more imminent.
Produced between 2013 and 2015 while Robert was studying for his master’s degree, The Moor depicts a fictionalised future situated on the bleak moorland of Dartmoor. Channelling Robert’s emotional response to the landscape, it’s a series imbued with feelings of isolation and melancholy. In one image, a lonely figure appears in the centre of a vast space, almost camouflaged by the weather beaten grass, as the landscape fades into nothing but fog in front of them. In another, an apparently abandoned house emerges from the woodland. The combination of abandoned, open spaces and reoccurring unnamed characters builds a narrative throughout the book, although one that is open to interpretation.
What makes The Moor so compelling, however, is actually its alignment with reality. It portrays an unease with the modern world, expressing Robert’s concerns in relation to the environment and society. “It feels especially prescient now with the country split over leaving Europe and years of Tory cuts and uncontrolled capitalism which have created insecure and unfulfilling work environments,” he outlines, “Alongside global warming and the continued destruction of the natural environment, it doesn’t feel like we are far off from a dystopian future, in fact, it wouldn’t be too hard to argue for many they are already living in one.”
The Martin Parr Foundation - 2018
“Two rising stars in British photography, Dan Wood and Robert Darch, discuss recently published works. Robert Darch will discuss the importance of autobiography, touching on the relationship between his photographic practice, geography in the South West of England and himself as a photographer. Using found, constructed and documentary images within his practice, Darch will describe how he combines these elements to create a sense of place, referencing both his recent book The Moor and his ongoing project Durlescombe.”
It's Nice That, Ruby Boddington - 2018
“In 2008, Birmingham-born photographer Robert Darch moved to Exeter, Devon in the south west of England. In that decade, the area would come to shape the geographical context of Robert’s work, of which the series Durlescombe is a large part. An ongoing project, Durlescombetells the story of a fictional, yet altogether typical Devonshire village, through documentary photography, Robert’s own family photos and found illustrations.
Already aware that his family name of Darch had links to Devon, Robert found himself in a small town in the middle of the county in the Spring of 2016. “I thought it might be fun to see if I could find any Darch’s in the graveyard,” he recalls, “almost instantly, and to my surprise, I found a large gravestone with my name on it, Robert Darch.”
This chance discovery prompted a project which sees Robert exploring his own attachment to a region where generations of his family have lived and worked for almost one thousand years. Although not a real place, the village of Durlescombe becomes a holding ground for this attachment; an embodiment of Robert’s identity and nostalgia.
The series is full of chance encounters, from finding the original gravestone to meeting actual family members and abandoned buildings previously owned by relatives. Although ultimately fictitious, these interactions are what breathe so much nostalgia into the images. This nostalgia is also captured within the tone of the images, however. Full of misty scenes and lofty barns, there is a drama to the series which is only furthered by the inclusion of archival illustrations and photographs.
When shooting the series, Robert spent time observing the local people and documenting from afar but also constructed certain shots. “I explained that they are more like characters inhabiting this place from my imagination rather than being an accurate portrayal of them,” he explains. Despite this, there is an honesty to the series as a result of the time Robert spent getting to know the community, allowing them to have a say in the narrative that ensued.”
David Chandler, Rural Deep, Plymouth University - 2017
“Rural Deep will feature presentations by two photographic artists whose recent work is concerned with the evolving relationships between people and rural environments in very distinctive, localised contexts in Europe. Combining and juxtaposing different photographic registers in their work, both artists disrupt conventional documentary models to construct new ways of seeing and imagining rural experience. Their rural scenes shift between dark mystery and sunlit pastoral, between the sublime and the banal. Tradition and modernity are often awkwardly aligned, and quotidian reality is undercut by elements of fictional narrative, ambiguity and the absurd. In their different ways, Anne Golaz and Robert Darch present multi-textural visions of rural life, in which age-old rhythms and rituals have taken on new and often surprising meanings and associations.”
Source Graduate, Cliff Lauson, Hayward Gallery - 2016
“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.
It is always a great pleasure to be involved with graduate work, and as a visual arts curator, I am generally interested in images that work across both conceptual and aesthetic lines. This can be a tricky balance to strike, but it is one that a number of photographers in this year's submissions have accomplished with a high degree of originality and impact. In some works, I could see the influence of historical photographers resonating, but filtered through very contemporary topics and themes. Transition, thresholds, and change seem to be the prevalent topics of the more representational images, while others depict the quieter moments and traces of places that appear all the more charged for their abandon. I had a strong gut reaction to all of the works that I selected - they stirred something inside of me and drew me into the photographer's story, as all good artwork should.”
David Chandler, Plymouth University - 2016
“Both Sian and Robert have excelled during their time at Plymouth, producing photographic work that is both highly distinctive in its relationship to the South West and completely international in its ambition and standard. Their success is indicative of an exciting momentum in the teaching of photography at the University, which is set to gather pace in the future.”
Juxtapoz Magazine, Elicia Epstein - 2016
“In each of his three photo series, Vale, The Moor, and The White Wale, British photographer Robert Darch shows masterful command of light and a propensity for precise composition.
Featured in the gallery are images from The Moor, a sequence of sixty-one color and black and white photographs that create a magnificent, uneasy world. Vast, strange and quiet landscapes intersperse with portraits, with only one subject featured at a time. Across the series, there is a consistent specificity of subject. Everything is under a microscope, but nothing lacks for space. What’s more vague, rather, is the constructed presence of the image-maker. Darch uses subtle shifts in camera position and zooming in through consecutive images that create the sense of a curious, omnipresent but invisible eye.”
Lensculture on Vale - 2016
“Romantic landscapes set in the southwest of England-home of Arthurian legends-laced with contemporary unease. Fiction, document, feeling and place are all rolled together in this nuanced set of images.”