The North as a fantasy playground: Re-evaluating literary influences
The landscape photography of Raymond Moore (1920-1987) has been contextualised as a minor footnote in the British documentary tradition of the 1970s, yet his work deserves further scrutiny. Using the author’s previously unpublished interview with the photographer recorded in the last year of his life, this paper explores Moore’s interest in literature and charts the influences that helped to shape his unique view of the north. For Moore, reading Arthur Machen’s fantasy novel The Hill of Dreams was an epiphany – yet it is hard to think of a more unlikely source of inspiration for the photographer best known for his banal, distanced and reductive view of the north. Moore was a complex artist, not given to writing about his work and one who rarely spoke about his motives. Working outside the long-term documentary project format common amongst his peers, Moore operated without a brief or a narrative intent and was sceptical about the perceived proselytising tone of his contemporaries. Instead and like Machen, Moore saw the northern landscape as a fantasy playground – a territory rich in visual banality and a space to exercise formalism and an aesthetic sensibility imprinted from an earlier career as an abstract painter. Drawn to liminal spaces and deserted edgelands and with a fascination for the nondescript, Moore was a mute chronicler of the mundane and an unacknowledged proponent of the detached observational genre so familiar today.
Conference paper presented at Northern Light: Critical Approaches to Promixity and Distance.
Full text and citation on ChesterRep
(above image: Tim Daly)