Thanks to Grant Scott for discussing my work on his latest podcast at The United Nations of Photography and especially for drawing my attention to the influence of Steinbeck on my Durlescombe series. You can listen via the link >HERE<
“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
Really lovely to have some work included in the debut group exhibition organised by Then There Was Us and hosted at their new home, Public Source in Manchester. Show opens on the 24th of May.
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.
It was a lovely surprise to discover that Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning had written a review of The Moor for Photobookstore.
“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.”
A huge thanks to Alexander Milnes & Jessica Klingelfuss at Wallpaper Magazine for featuring the Moor with a lovely article by Charlotte Jansen.
Very happy to have been asked to speak about what photography means to me for UN of Photography. Not an easy thing to do in just five minutes, but I gave it a go! If you want to listen, i'm in at around 12 minutes on the podcast.
The winner and shortlist for the Unveil'd Photobook award has just been announced! It's never easy having to judge such varying work against one another, and as a photographer it's not a responsibility I take lightly! It was however a real pleasure to see so many exciting and diverse books, and we are all really excited to announce the Winner and shortlisted books! A big thanks to the judging panel (Tom Coleman, Hannah Watson, Jessica Lennan, Max Ferguson, Lola Paprocka) for their time and particularly Hannah at Trolley for hosting Unveil'd for the day. Congratulations to the winner Fabrixio Albertini for his book Radici! You can see all the Shortlisted photographers on the Unveil’d website.
It was really interesting to see The Moor on press at Wells printers and to watch the litho printing process and the technology now used to manage this traditional printing method. Really looking forward to seeing the finished bound book!
My work is currently being exhibited in ‘Distinctly’ at the Pingyao International Photography Festival, curated by Tracy Marshall in collaboration with Open Eye Gallery & Look Photo Biennial .