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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Fighting the Fascists of Interior Design: David Moore's Pictures of Real Interiors

The late, great Elmore Leonard passed away this summer, but his stories will always live on. So will his ten rules for writing fiction, number 10 of which was 'Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.'

That applies to photography as well, but most of the time it doesn't. The world is awash with boring photographs that are used to pad out a story ( often in the name of a narrative that is fictional only its misuse of the word narrative).

I thought about Elmore Leonard's 10th rule when I first saw David Moore's Pictures from the Real world, a slender volume of 18 pictures of interiors from Derby, England.

Made in the late 1980s, every one of the 18 is a humdinger, with a narrative flow concealed beneath the peeling wallpaper, the mould stains and the bottles of milk; it's a photobook where bottles of milk and mould stains are key elements in the visual story. Fantastic!

The first time I saw the book, I thought it was some kind of commentary on poverty and the grimness of living life in a crappy interior. More because that's what one is supposed to think and that is where the whole viewing theory points to. And there is grimness, especially in the one picture with the obese woman and the child's toys on the floor. It's so grim it could almost be contemporary.

But then I thought about all the places I have lived with their crappy interiors and their mould stains and cracked windows, and the little judgements that have been projected onto me by OCD housecleaners with their identikit IKEA-decorated houses (not that there's anything wrong with IKEA - why, my house is full of the stuff).

That made me wonder if Pictures From the Real World isn't really a commentary on the world of interiors that existed before IKEA and Changing Rooms and A Place in the Sun came around. The accompanying essay in the book helpfully points out that the first IKEA opened around the time the pictures were made and so that confirms my wondering.

In which case, Pictures From Home isn't so much a critique of Thatcherism, poverty and poor housing conditions (although it is all that as well), but is more of a memento mori of the chaos of interior design before most of us had a clue of what it was all about, a chaos that has more life and soul than anything the present poor person's interior has to offer. It's a critique of design in other words.

Or possibly not. Perhaps it is just a bunch of pictures that are just that - a bunch of pictures that stand out from the crowd for their content, not for any statement that might arbitrarily be made up to go with them.

But I might be wrong on that. Still, I like the thought that somebody is taking on design fascism in at least one of its contemporary forms. So I'll stick with that thought.

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