Really lovely book review of The Moor by Cary Benbow for F-Stop Magazine.
A quote from Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road, sets the stage for The Moor. Robert Darch’s photo book depicts a fictionalized dystopian future situated on the bleak moorland landscapes of Dartmoor, England. Darch explains that the project draws on childhood memories, and influences from contemporary culture to create a narrative that references local and universal mythology; all of which gives context but suggests something altogether more unknown. Darch further explains that the realization of this dystopian future is specifically in response to a perceived uncertainty of life in the modern world and a growing disengagement with humanitarian ideals. The Moor portrays an unsettling world that shifts between large open vistas, dark forests, makeshift dwellings, uncanny visions and isolated figures.
‘He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.’ (Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006)
I came across the accompanying text on Darch’s website after having already paced through the book, which caused me to reconsider the underlying psychological pull of The Moor. The feel of an on-going narrative is reinforced by reappearing characters, often appearing on edge, in peril or distressed. The inherent wildness of the landscape heightens this fragile sense of existence, with the suggestion of an unseen presence adding to the isolation and tension. Darch uses constructed documentation to create dramatic narratives. Shifting between quasi-documentary and staged photography, The Moor transcends into narrative fiction, even if all the people and places are based on a real place.
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.
The Moor is published by Another Place Press and was launched at the Martin Parr Foundation in December 2018.