I adore Sarah Moon. I ran across her in one of those tiny, general overview books you can buy at Barnes and Nobles or Border entitled The Photobook. I bought it on a whim years ago when I was still in academia and hadn’t even really begun to consider a professional career (is it a career when you aren’t really making any money?) as an artist. The Moon photo which appeared in The Photobook was her Morgan from 1983. According to The Photobook‘s entry, the figure portrayed in the picture is Morgan le Fey.
To me, Morgan appears to be a remnant, a child-form, aging backwards like Merlin, from the depths of Arthurian legend. The photo itself shows the child-form Morgan standing before a backdrop-forest placed in the middle of an ancient alley-street, cobbled and decayed from time. This Morgan, displaced into a modern context, carries her myth with her, wrapped around her like the tartan clothes she wears.
As I continued to find more of Moon’s pieces, I found compositions filled with fairytales in miniture, grotesque images where beauty and decay meet in a seamless unity. Images where the purely beautiful and disenfranchised are juxtaposed with pieces that are reminiscent of Victorian death-books, memento mori. Places are more-than-inhabitable and the places Moon creates are inhabitated by that which will consume the viewer, given half-a-chance. These images, whether beautiful, grotesque, mythic, or touchable reality, echo with “choric” emotion. Chora is a philosophical term meaning “hollow” and is often used in regards to empty wombs. These choric places are filled, paradoxically, with violence and light, death and whimsy.
This is why Moon appeals to me. Her images are not just “pretty”, though one could interact with them in such a way. These encapsulated visual stories, because the story is all there if one looks closely enough, do not end in “happily ever after” or “the end”. The story is still going, still being told behind the picture, to the sides, in the liminality of a reconsidered moment and the ‘tween places that she captures. There is death, life, birth, and stagnation present in each photo. Like slinking crocodillians, Moon’s photographs are horrific and wonderous, capturing time and space in the split second before dissolution.
About the photographer: Sarah Moon was born in England in 1940. She studied drawing and was a model in both London and Paris during the early 1960s (specifically 1960-1966). In 1967, Moon became a fashion photographer and a publicity filmmaker. Moon, I think, still resides in Paris and works in illustration, fashion, and still-life, black and white, color, and utilizes sepia coloring on matte paper, a convention used in the 1920 that has all but disappeared.
Sarah Moon on the web:
Editor’s Note: This was written in reply to a comment, but, on the off chance that other’s don’t necessarily read comments, my response has been placed here for your reading pleasure.
Honestly, I think the original photo might actually be a sepia print. That’s my memory of it. My copy was photocopied and, later, scanned from a can’t-take-it-from-the-library book.
But, I’m pretty sure that it was sepia.
That’s it. Continue on about your day.