Raymond Moore in Camera Owner, 1967

CC Issue 36

This article was the first time Raymond Moore had work published in a photographic magazine. It is from Issue 36 of Camera Owner in June 1967, the precursor of Creative Camera, and was written by J S Lewinski.

 Raymond Moore: camera owner of the month

words by J. S. Lewinski; pictures by Raymond Moore

Rock pool, by Raymond Moore

Raymond Moore is a ‘pure’ photographer-creating pictures that please, rather than for profit. His beautiful beach designs and simple landscapes have earned him an enviable reputation among discerning photographers. After training as a designer, he studied painting at the Royal College of Art. He is now in charge of photography at Watford School of Art. Last year he had a one-man exhibition at the University of Wales, and his photographs have been displayed and published internationally. We asked J. S. Lewinski-himself a fine photographer-to tell us more about Raymond Moore and his approach to picture-making.

It is a sad reflection, I suppose when we find time to stop and think for a moment, how the world and our life become more and more materialistic. Getting more out of life (i.e., money), gaining position and prestige become an over-riding aim. Some fifty years ago an unselfish pursuit of arts and a search of spiritual values still had some meaning. Where are all those sublime starving painters and poets? Mostly employed at libraries and schools writing their poetry as a hobby. Even apart from extremes, many people in the past pursued their arts for art’s sake, entirely without mercenary motives. These days everyone wants to make a fast pound out of their hobbies.

It is even rarer to find this ‘purity’ of approach in photography which does tend to spill into craft and commercial professionalism rather easier perhaps, than any other creative medium. It is so easy to forget your artistic intentions and lapse into something which can be sold as mass media and pay for your holiday in Italy. You need an iron will and strength of character to remain a true artist and poet of the camera, as Raymond Moore. And stick to this kind of photography, which while being most satisfying aesthetically is certainly least saleable.

Photograph by Ray Moore

But then Raymond Moore is also a rare exception among photographers in another sense. Some photographers strive to become painters (Cecil Beaton, Douglas Glass), but Raymond is a painter who finally settled on the camera rather than brushes in order to create his images.

Indeed he is a fully-trained painter. He entered a school of art just before the war, and was rudely interrupted, after barely two years by Hitler. He spent his war years in uniformmostly in the Middle East, and on demobilisation in 1946 went back to art classes. In fact he did so well that he was granted a three-year scholarship to the Royal College of Art. On graduation in 1950 art at the time being rather less fashionable than it is today, Raymond had to eke out his living by teaching and became a part-time teacher of painting and lithography at Watford College of Art, where he remains to this day. But with one significant difference-he now teaches the art of photography to students of painting and graphic design.

The change of course was quite gradual though he was already doing some photography while at the Royal College since his first exhibition of photographs (at the architectural department of Regent Street Polytechnic) dates back to 1951. Yet it is very significant, especially for those of us who sometimes day-dream about freedom of painting, that a qualified and successful painter can find a complete satisfaction of his creative impulses in photography.

Photograph by Ray Moore

The kind of photographs that Raymond creates, find their way occasionally into select photoannuals, or more sophisticated magazines, or even an exhibition that can be arranged at a discerning art gallery (such as his A.I.A. exhibition, 1960, sharing walls with a painter and a sculptor). But on a more mundane level, his photography is most unrewarding. Because of this Raymond Moore, even in the photographic circles, is not as well known as he should be. And yet he is our best exponent (Bill Brandt, whom he admires greatly, excepted) of pure, severe landscape photography and in a sense ‘abstract’ photography of nature.

The word ‘abstract’ needs, I think, some qualification. In a literal sense abstract’ means entirely devoid of reference to reality. But one often uses nowadays the word ‘abstracting’ in a broader sense, of using realistic images, in a free wayabstracting from reality-retaining certain essential qualities (or lines or shapes) of the subject and yet suppressing unnecessary details. Or again, alternatively taking only a small portion of the whole, so that it may even lose its literal meaning.

To my mind this is the essence of photographic creation, being able to extract from the scene or person the most crucial characteristic, its predominant form and line, and bring them out boldly and strongly, glossing over the superficial, which do not matter.

Photograph by Ray Moore

For this kind of work the photographer needs sensitivity and gradually increasing sophistication of visual awareness. A wavy hesitant line in the sand, a fragile, delicate stalk of a plant, or a wound of a crack on a rock-face can often express more beauty than a most elaborate landscape.

There is no doubt however, that the art of Raymond Moore requires a lot of participation from the viewer. It requires also a certain visual maturity and sensitivity, to be capable of appraising and enjoying all the subtleties of Moore’s prints. His exquisite photographic quality is a joy in itself.

Fortunately more and more people are beginning to recognise his talent. Helmut Gernsheim (the well-known collector and historian – his enormous collection was bought by an American university and thus lost to Britain) was one of the first to do so. He bought a number of Moore’s prints for his collection, and was a source of great encouragement.

Photograph by Ray Moore

Equipment for Raymond Moore, as one would expect, is not so very important, though his pictures do require a certain clarity and purity of definition and tone. He used a 5 x 4 in. camera for some time but found it a bit too cumbersome and restricting. Now, most of his negatives are shot with a Mamiyaflex twin-lens reflex with shorter focal length lenses. But there is in his work, as he says, the need for freedom of movement which allows for greater intimacy with nature. When you work on a mountain, you feel an increasing excitement of discovery, sudden flashes of perception and the thrill of feeling en rapport with your subject. He also admits that the more transient moods of light and shade movements of plants in the wind, begin to interest him increasingly. All this calls for lighter rather than heavier equipment, His Pentax miniature therefore has become a favourite.