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Art Photobook Reviews

The Island by Robert Darch

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

As with pretty much any photo book that catches my attention, the initial lure has to be the work itself.

In the case of The Island it was a masterclass of mood, a pitch perfect journey into a cinematic storyboard that hints at the romance of a time passed and the broken hearts, hopes and dreams of those washed up or stranded on the shores of "now".

That it was Darch's response, a visual invocation if you will, to the dashed hopes and dreams of Britain's youth in the fallout of Brexit, only really became apparent upon reading his notes (secreted within the folds of the cover). However, upon first inspection the lyrical power of The Island suggested all manner of narratives and the scope and feel of moods and styles employed, rather than a comment on post Brexit Britain, instead swept me through an atmospheric journey evoking many of British cinema’s golden  memories, the muted monochrome describing some of the most beautiful, slightly forlorn characters and countryside to pass before any lens.

From steam trains moving through Hitchcock’s landscape of The 39 Steps,

through the atmospheric mists of Lean’s Great Expectations

and of course on to the portraits.

Here the change is palpable, rather than the challenged rebellion that characterised the sixties era films of Ken Loach and Lindsay Anderson, these are their twenty first century "offspring" gazing into the camera with world weary faces, sapped of hope and energy, many of them old before their time.

Irrespective of the Brexit situation this is a generation likely to inherit the results of inept leaders and corrupt dictators on a global scale.

So whether it's atmospheric romance or new age kitchen sink drama, this is where we are and The Island sings its mournful song as beautifully as any jaded chanteuse.

But are we looking out across the waters to a land of milk and honey, of golden sunsets and countries united in harmony, or a slightly wonky machine beleaguered with its own infighting, financial problems and individual senses of national pride.

Islanders are islanders (the world over), guarded (instinctively), insular (occasionally), independent (always) and whilst generational changes and a shrinking world means that our youth has become accustomed to the opportunities easily afforded them beyond our shores, for the time being at least, all they can see are bridges are being brought down and obstacles thrown up.

However, surely the darkness and gloom that has encompassed the island is a phase - a chapter.

And as is the nature of chapters sooner or later they come to an end and new ones begin.

At the risk of sounding a little idealistic, the reality is that we all need each other and until such times as bruised egos heal and pride (on both sides of the divide, both geographically and politically) can be soothed, it seems likely that our respective leaders will continue to punish one another and in doing so, their countries and their people.

There has always been a stoicism to the people of this island and whether native or integrated (either newly arrived or established over time) that spirit has been absorbed and adopted.

As of this moment the mood may be heavy, but surely there must still be hope, desires and ambition because without these, a necessary light and part of our hard won identity will certainly be extinguished.

The serene melancholy of The Island reflects an atmosphere of today and the light and conditions utilised, amplify and synchronise,

nod and sympathise.

But with a different day and seen in a different light, the mood is sure to be brighter and spirits allowed to lift once again.

One can only hope that Darch’s lens is ready to capture that new day as well.

The Island by Robert Darch is published by Lido Books in an edition of 1000 copies.

1 Σχόλιο

09 Φεβ 2023

Utterly stunning photos. LOVE this. The depth of "colour". The boat in the mist and the sole person on the road, just wonderful. The couple's faces say it all, great photo. As ever, Robin, gorgeous prose, in particular:

"However, surely the darkness and gloom that has encompassed the island is a phase - a chapter.

And as is the nature of chapters sooner or later they come to an end and new ones begin."


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