- Written by Peter Adams
A recent contact from Peter Adams in Australia brought to light some new photographs of Raymond Moore. Adams interviewed Moore in 1987, when he also made these two portraits, and has written a short piece of accompanying text for the images.
Raymond Moore was one of the great British photographers, but to most of the general public and perhaps to you, he was all but invisible. However, for masters like Harry Callaghan, Aaron Siskind, Minor White, Bill Brandt and the American historian Helmut Gernsheim, Raymond Moore was a highly regarded – possibly the only – original British photographer of the 20th Century.
A strong claim, but one made by Minor White, whose comments are worth seriously considering.
When I met Ray Moore in Cumbria in April 1987, I wanted to include in my portrait something that emphasised the geometric lines and abstraction that appears so prominently in his work. The day was sunny – not the light that Raymond Moore loved – but I was fortunate that in shade, around a corner of his cottage, there was a mad collection of rain water pipes, and it was here that I made my first pictures.
As we worked I became conscious of a handsaw busy cutting down some bushes elsewhere in the garden.
When I had made a few exposures around the drainpipes, we moved into the sun around the corner.
Ray disappeared to relieve his bladder and Mary Cooper Moore (Ray’s young student wife) took me to one side and quietly said “Can you take a few pictures of Ray on the garden swing?” It was something I had already decided to do – so I agreed. “He’s very ill, you know...” she said, “...he has a very weak heart, and probably won’t live much longer.”
Ray Moore had his first coronary when he was 37. He died six months after my visit, on the 6th October. He was 67.
Mary pointed to a distant chapel on the hill in the distance. “He will be buried up there on the hill – I didn’t want the bushes to block your view.” I suddenly realised that the handsaw I had heard earlier had been used by Mary to cut down part of a hedge behind the swing – the stumps of the trunks are still visible in the photograph.
Frankly I was staggered by Mary’s honest and calculating method of recording history – however I suppose anything is acceptable in the world of ‘art’!
“...there are reasons why Raymond Moore’s work has drifted out of our sight.” Writes Peter Marshall1 “He was a painstaking printer, one of the best ... but made relatively few prints, and sold few during his lifetime, so virtually none appear in the art market, probably now the major driver of photographic visibility.
The largest collection of his work has for years been the subject of legal dispute and thus unavailable for museum shows. And the genre in which he worked was outside the traditional British obsession with social documentation (nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t all of photography)."
J. Hamlyn2 writes on his blog: “How come Raymond Moore isn't a household name? Or why, at least, don't photography students know his work?Unfortunately the answer to this question is the most lamentable aspect of the whole Raymond Moore story - and one which continues to shroud a body of work that represents such a profoundly important part of the legacy of British photographic history.
Mary Moore Cooper, through unstinting faith in the work of her late husband, ploughed every penny of available money and capital into the Raymond Moore Archive in the firm belief that a buyer would easily be found. Sotheby's took on the role of finding a buyer and Mary continued to persuade the bank to loan on this certain return. Sadly, a buyer was never secured and the archive fell into the hands of Sotheby's where it has been languishing ever since.”
"Raymond Moore worked with landscape and objects the way that Tony Ray-Jones worked with people - he found a new way to make visible through photography that which he saw and perhaps others didn't.
Moore photographed things that few others did. His work is difficult to categorize under any heading; it appears somewhat journalistic in its execution and is certainly a form of documentary. However, it is concerned not with the subject of the photograph itself but rather with 'the no-mans land between the real and the fantasy' as Moore himself put it.
It is a type of photography that performs best for the viewer in the formal surroundings of a gallery, or through the medium of a well-produced book.
Moore had his first one-man show in London in 1959, another in 1962 and two in Wales in 1966. His photographic vision was continuously evolving - and continued to evolve up to and beyond his major retrospective at London's Hayward Gallery in 1981.
This was only the second exhibition accorded to a British photographer at the prestigious London venue - the first had been Bill Brandt in 1970. Although Brandt was well known by anyone with an interest in photographic art, Moore remained primarily a photographer's photographer."3
3From 'Between the Real and the Fantasy' written by Roy Hammans - this site.
© Peter Adams, 2012.