Robert Darch is from Exeter and is a landscape photographer, who has completed a MA and MFA at Plymouth University. He has been nominated for MACK’s first book award. He is also a curator in various capacities.
The first project of his MA (this was two years long) was called ‘Vale’, it had started before the MA but carried it onto the course. This was his initial interest in landscape, which began in the summer of 2013, initially it was taking photographs with no thought then develop them from the initial interest. The more you do, the more you get a thread of ideas, similar to building blocks until the idea is fully formed. This expanded where he was taking photographs, going to the places to fit a narrative. The river became integral and symbolised the rebirth of life- finding his feet again, after he was very ill. He had a minor stroke and glandular fever during his first MA and missed out on the majority of his twenties.
Darch was taught by Jem Southam, he didn’t want to copy his work, however, his work did influence him, for example he liked the idea of looking at different seasons. You create your own luck by going out and shooting, it won’t just happen you must work for it.
His friend was filming a horror film in Devon, he produced the stills for this. It gave him the chance to explore the space that was being filmed in, which he found very interesting. It made him think of what is beyond, exploring past what is placed in front of you, for example, walking through a door and capturing it in a different way to how we see it as an everyday occurrence. Horror films have been an influential feature to Darch,he spent a long time watching them when he was younger. Although he has drawn inspiration from everywhere: film, painting, literature, landscape and coincidences.
In the project ‘Vale’ some of the images are constructed, whereas the majority are coincidences rather than staged ‘if it fits well use it’. He picked people who would suit the landscape, to become lost in the landscape. This project is about youth and nostalgia; an idyllic situation.
Things happen; when you look back the first time around you don’t notice the small things, it is only over time that you realise certain things. He did a lot before going back to his MA, he wanted to do everything but was doing too much.
The second project of the MA was called ‘The Moor’ which was based on Dartmoor. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, however, he knew he wanted to use this location. He spent the time working and building a relationship before creating a narrative: creating an idea of place and focus on the intensity of the wilderness. He next went onto think of people he wanted to feature within this project. He took time to form the idea; fiction influenced his idea a lot. He spent time doing everything; research, travelling, etc. The project was shot over winter, showing the bleakness of Dartmoor. Over time he had built up a network of people that can use within his work, his only condition is that they all get on, as it can be an intensive period of time and tensions can arise. The final outcome was 60 images, in colour (apart from the first few).
His current project is called ‘Durlescombe’, the name is created by Darch and isn’t a real place, a lot of the time Darch is drawn to a place but doesn’t take photographs, he is interested with the idea of place. He began by producing staged images, this sometimes make the images seem timeless, a moment of chance, he wanted the place to be like something from an Agatha Christy novel, to show people in their natural environment. It is also an exploration of his family’s history, all of his family where millers (working and running them). He collected all the archival photography he could, and photographed the process of making Thatchers. He found the moment that fitted the images he wanted to make. The images captured history and how it changes and evolves over time. The working of the land features a lot. Initially Darch wanted to make the images in black and white however, this didn’t work as it didn’t suit the images or what he wanted to show within them. He wanted to look at the visual language making some images seem much older than they are- unease within the landscape. The images are paired together, rather than singularly, as it shows a relationship of the images, symbolising the relationship of other people.
Darch makes all his own book dummies. He shoots in digital and all if his projects get turned into books.
Macula Collective is run by Darch, two of the pupils from this have gone on to create the Unveiled Festival as well as owning DoDo Photo. DoDo Photo is essentially a private studio; however, his ambition is to open it out.
He has just finished a series of talks at Plymouth University. Darch struggles to fit everything he does in as he is very busy. He organises his time depending on his work as he works part time, does charity work, and does talks, he works six days a week- only shooting on his day off.
Darch finishes a project when it feels complete and doesn’t use a sketchbook/ journal and struggled with this in his education as they want to see the work behind the final outcome.
This lecture was very inspiring and taught me a lot, mostly to never give up and that if you work hard and put the effort in you will be rewarded for it, whether this be recognition or an award. Everything that he has been doing is very aspirational, he isn’t just doing it for himself but for others too.
For more information and images by Robert Darch visit his website: