The Moor by Robert Darch, reviewed by Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning

Robert Darch’s The Moor photobook continues the successful publishing streak by Another Place Press, an independent publisher specialising in landscape photography broadly conceived. 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 Darsh 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, whichsurprisingly complies with the Hollywood classic narrative to re-establish order out of disorder, my reading of Darsh’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.

The Moor by Robert Darch is published by Another Place Press.

Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning is an art historian specialising in photography and art from Latin America. He has lectured and taught on art from Latin American and was Assistant Director of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (University of Essex). Interested in the relationship between memory, human rights and art, Sebastian has researched the use of photography in memory spaces and the intersection between archiving theories and photobooks.