Understanding Raymond Moore: The Print

A visit to the Photography archives at National Media Museum.


Plenty has been written about the work of Raymond Moore, maybe more than the availability of his photographs, (due to his ‘estate being in storage’). Images are on the internet for inspection; or in his two books, (although in all cases print quality is compromised).

Can an actual photograph reveal more of his intentions?
A detailed study of my copy of Murmurs at Every Turn, 1981, Travelling Light, ISBN10:0906333121 revealed the print quality to be average, probably a cost consideration, but is does not detract from the enjoyment.

The words of the poet Jonathan Williams has always provided insight;
often human,
of something that happened,

then things
got very quiet…

If you balance this idea of something having happened, with “subtle studies of meaning” as Graham Clarke states on p.70 of The Photograph, we have an accepted idea of what Raymond Moore was about. But did Raymond Moore see his images of places, once active, now fallen quiet, or potentially laden with subtle meaning.

As he stated when commenting on the photograph Dumfriesshire, 1985. “The excitement– dare I say beauty? (I hate the bloody word!) – is in the coherence of forms. I nearly froze waiting for that bus to loom out of the mist and work against the sign.”

I visited the Archive department at National Media Museum in December 2015 wanting to believe I understood his work, but after inspecting the print of Dumfriesshire 1985 I concluded I did not.

Typical internet copy, with no indication of the bus, as Moore describes.

The photograph was not of waiting, or even an event passed or introducing subtlety of meaning. It is of something that is happening. The internet or a book barely reveal the approaching bus which provide form, but also activity. The place is alongside an important route, the location is intersected, but not forgotten – maybe important to a few.

He is recognised for his strong sense of place and its conjunction with time; applying aesthetic form within the spatial dynamics offered. Why did he emphasise distance at the expense of foreground; maybe because the centre was not where we first thought.

After studying the prints, I believe something else is also happening; where the composition is solely resting with form, but where the choice of content is unknown. Often a tranquil location, but not waiting for something, nor where an event has passed –  potentially an entrance or an invitation, to see the world differently.

Maybe I should listen to Schubert more, his favourite composer; or take more photographs with these lessons in mind.