Derry Moore (b. 1937) is famous in his native England for his celebrity and architectural photographs. He has gone to India repeatedly since his first trip in 1971, and in India he devotes the same attention to his pictures of servants and prostitutes and to the decaying edifices of the raj as he does to the stars of the London stage and noble palaces back home.
Which is to say that the work at sepiaEYE is very handsome, notable for its attention to detail and atmosphere. Although the features of her face are hidden in shadow, it is clear from the girl’s naked back in “Prostitute, Bombay” (1976) that she is young and attractive. The portly subject of “Nawab Mujib Yar Jung, Hyderabad” (1978) sits wearing a traditional frock coat and jodhpurs and with a walking stick. He is middle-aged and a man of authority; the chairs, paintings and other furnishings that surround him help us understand who he is.
The haunted look of the man in “Palace Guard, Jaisalmer” (1978), with his snow white mustache and oversize turban, is an indication he has outlived his time. The youth in “Young Boy in Burdwan House, Calcutta” (1977), one of the few color prints in this show, is handsome, with jet black hair, and sits comfortably in a classic Roman chair in a room with a Roman bust and other classical Western statues, an example of the potpourri of cultures that is India.
By William Meyers - June 29th 2014
SepiaEYE, a New York gallery specializing in photographers from India and the Far East, is currently holding Derry Moore’s first solo exhibition in America. The show runs through July 30th.
Trained by the British photographer Bill Brandt, Moore visited India for the first time in 1971 to document Indian palaces, some of which were barely still standing. Impressed by the blend of local architecture combining European influences with Indian techniques, Moore expertly captured the nostalgia inspired by the castles from another era. From Calcutta, Delhi and Hyderabad to Lucknow, Mumbai and Udaipur, Moore takes the viewer on a timeless journey through two ancient cultures, Indian and European.
What’s striking about these immense and richly decorated palaces are their gigantic sizes, the sheer amount of decorations and embellishments, and the feeling that they were deserted by the families who once lived there. Rats eat the offerings of food laid out on altars of prayer, solitary guards open the large doors onto silent salons, and painted cardboard cutouts have replaced their hosts. The living look like statues, frozen like prisoners of the past. Only Satyajit Ray, the Bengali director, seems real, lost in a book in this Calcutta library.
Outside life reasserts itself. The luxurious vegetation, ponds and fields bordering the palace all murmur? Men work the land, erecting bamboo structures that will one day form the structures of a marriage tent. A camouflaged hunter awaits his prey on an arid Bikaner plain. Men cross a river on foot, carrying towering bundles of wood on their heads.
Derry Moore’s photographs transport the future into a timeless India, a lost world isolated from the progress of civilization. This is the India of dreams, fascinating and eternal.By Sybile Girault - June 30th 2014