Robert Darch is a photographer and creative based in the south west of England. A documentary photography graduate from UWCN, Newport, the images he produces are visceral and striking, presenting unique and sometimes unsettling folk-inspired narratives inspired by a mix of urban atrophy and English wilderness.
Currently collaborating with the Arnolfini and SpaceX, documenting the exhibitons, workshops and artists they support alongside working as a freelance photographer, Robert concedes to having many photography-based talents. His varied creative roles include teaching, photography direction for Flying Post Magazine, running a photography group for young people in Exeter called Macula Collective and working as an in-house photographer for Bikeshed Theatre Company. We caught up with Robert to find out more about his work and what inspires him…
What was it that first got you into photography?
Growing up as a skateboarder in the Midlands we didn’t have access to the purpose built skate parks that scatter the U.K. today.’ says Robert. ‘The scene was DIY, and the harsh winters forced us inside. We found our way into empty offices, warehouses & factories, where we built ramps, hung out, and explored. By their nature the abandoned environments were risky and unsafe, often shared by users and the itinerant. We found our way around pitch-black basements by match light and firing off camera flashes. It was exhilarating, the unknown darkness, abject silence and wavering match light all adding to the atmosphere. The creeping fear of not knowing who or what you might find down there in the blackness was addictive.
The concept of psycho-geography runs through much of your work. What else inspires your photography?
Aesthetically my photography work falls within the contemporary documentary practice, although the themes behind the work are usually more poetic and conceptual in their nature. Creatively I am fascinated by the minutia of everyday life and achieving a sense of place. Nature normally plays a large role in my work, be it Photography or Video. Especially when making music videos if you have a small budget it’s hard to do any real Art Direction, in terms of sets and props. However if you work outdoors, in the landscape and as long as you understand how best to use the light, you have the perfect natural set.
I love American Photography, I have never found English photographer’s work as inspiring, apart from Jem Southam and Martin Parr. I like American photographers like Robert Adams, Joel Meyerowitz, Frank Gohlke, William Christenberry, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. However, I’m influenced by lots of other media, and not limited to photography.
You’ve mentioned literature and traditional Anglo-idyls as points of reference too…
I’m trying to create a real sense of Englishness in my work at the moment while trying to be not over twee. It’s a fine line. I’m more influenced by children’s literature, like Roald Dahl, and authors who wrote about the landscape. I’m trying to visualise their writing.
Robert has worked with the likes of CRACK Magazine, The Guardian and Disney. His work is familiar, haunting and pops with vivid realism; it’s safe to say he is a YGT photography favourite. We look forward to seeing new incredible photo sets and upcoming creative projects later in the year.
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Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth