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David Moore. Vintage Photographs from Pictures of the Real World (1988)

David Moore. Vintage Photographs from Pictures of the Real World (1988)

David Moore's Pictures from the Real World is a remarkable body of work that remained little known until recently. In 1988 Martin Parr, having seen it in Moore's degree show at Farnham, nominated it for a 'State of the Art' feature in Creative Camera magazine. However, this was the only time these pictures were publicly shown until the Hyman Collection purchased a group of vintage prints from David Moore in 2011. A subsequent revival of interest led to the publication of a monograph on this body of work (Dewi Lewis, 2013).

The series comes from an important moment in the development of colour photography in Britain and depicts families on a council estate in Moore's home city of Derby, UK. At this time, in the 1980s, few serious documentary photographers were working in colour and Moore's choice was in many ways a rebellion against the prevalent aesthetic. It was also a critical response to the new political and social realities imposed by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government from 1979.

As David Chandler comments in an essay commissioned for the book: "Pictures from the Real World presents working class life as a strange blend of physical mayhem and inertia, the abrasive square frames of Moore's camera cut into bodies and objects, much as the rooms themselves seem to struggle to contain them ... The sense of exhilaration in this work came partly from its caustic, unsentimental exposing of the inequities of a loathed culture, but it could be felt, too, in the very ambiguous nature of the photographer's stance, as if the pictures were the products of some fevered, entranced state and therefore beyond the balancing of any rational moral compass. It was this sense of maverick liberation from complacent 'concern' and collective responsibility that gave so much of the imagery its visceral charge.

These ideas are implicit in Moore's Pictures from the Real World. He was an ambitious student and, in the hot?house environment of Farnham at that time, was driven to push and experiment and to take risks with both his work and his innate sense of social responsibility (he had worked as a civil servant before choosing to study photography). During the summer of 1986 and into 1987, he had been working in and around housing estates near where he lived in Derby, being a kind of 'flaneur', making portraits and occasionally following that practice into people's homes. But, unsatisfied with the work that he was producing, he took the perhaps audacious decision to become more insistent and began knocking on the doors of stranger's homes, to photograph 'from the inside', and to produce what amounts to the illusion of an insider's, and perhaps a participant's intimate view, grabbed from what appears to be the chaotic ebb and flow of life."

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

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