Dwelling in Contingency
: Towards a Reappraisal of the Late Work of the British Photographer Raymond Moore, in Light of its Affinities with a Zen Buddhist Worldview.

  • Simon Stahli

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Raymond Moore operated quite apart from the mainstream of the British photography scene, with its emphasis on socially engaged and documentary approaches. He created his compelling images from the most mundane subject matter, seeking out the 'uncommonness of the commonplace' as he himself put it.

    Moore is best known for his early work, taking its cue from Formalism as well as the nature mysticism of the British Neo Romantic movement. His mature work is minimalist, even selfeffacing, and pervaded by an understated sense of humour. It is the argument of this thesis that the general perception of Moore as one of the last great 'Modernist masters' has hindered the appreciation of a much more radical artist who only came to the fore from the mid-70s onwards.

    A methodological chapter addresses some of the challenges posed by an author- and work centred approach such as that adopted by the thesis. In the wake of persuasive 'postmodern' critiques of the status of critical agency and the representative function of language, how is it still possible to write about a photographer's work? What may the resulting text hope to achieve?

    A biographical chapter then examines Moore's life and art-historical context, based on original interviews with his contemporaries, as well as unpublished material such as letters and photographs.

    There follows an in-depth analysis of a number of images, mainly from the transitional period leading up to the late work. Moore's work distances us from anthropocentrism, without on the other hand surrendering to nihilism.

    Finally, an attempt is made to sketch out a philosophical framework from which to better appreciate the qualities found in Moore's late work. Moore's well-documented interest in Zen Buddhism provides a point or reference, as do the Hua Yen vision of radical interdependence, ideas connected to Systems Theory and Constructivism, the project of 'Deep Ecology', and Jullien's notion of 'Blandness'. The concluding chapter also examines the possible relevance to everyday life of the change in perspective implicitly suggested by Moore's work.

    The thesis also contains an illustrated catalogue raisonne of Moore's published work, and most of the work in public and private collections worldwide.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan Walker (Supervisor)


    • Raymond Moore
    • Photography
    • Zen Buddhism
    • 20th Century
    • Hua Yen

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