David Moore is a London based photographic artist using and interrogating documentary modes. He has exhibited and published internationally and has work held in many public and private collections. David has worked as a photographer and educator since graduating from West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham, in 1988.
David has published several monographs of his work. His most recent publication, ‘Pictures from the Real World. Colour Photographs from 1987-88’ was published in 2013 to critical acclaim.
In November 2016, David became Principal Lecturer and Course Leader of the MA Documentary and Photojournalism Course at the University of Westminster.
The Last Things
“I don’t understand how you’ve got this far” MoD official, London 2007
Between September 2006 and April 2007, supported by Arts Council of England, David Moore worked in a secure military location below ground in central London.
This space will be used as the first port of call in any situation where the safety of the country is under threat. The Ministry of Defence allowed David Moore an unprecedented level of access which has enabled him to observe a live working space, continuously on standby, and fully prepared for the most extreme national emergency.
The Last Things develops ideas about the institutions of government and the manifestations of power first seen in The Commons (Velvet Press 2004).
Final “Sign Off Meeting”, as Angela says, they ‘wheel in the bigwigs at the end’. Today’s bigwig was AD Lt Col ******* ******* who was wearing a pinstripe double-breasted suit and shiny clean. Around the table, were Angela Weight, Danny **** from the ****** ******, Charlotte ******* from the MoD art collection, her assistant Patrick, and Tom *****. John ******** from the *** was off sick. I expected all sorts of conditions were to be applied to the work. It was made clear I was ‘very lucky’ to have gained access and that if I applied now it would have been a firm, but polite ‘No’. The Ad Lt Col seemed annoyed I had pulled it off. Looking at the body of work I had made he had concerns with words and numbers within my photographs, and as the objections have not been about imagery per se , but details within them, I will have to censor the photographs digitally. This will be an interesting condition for the work to absorb. One which reflects my relationship with the MoD. The AD Lt Col didn’t want the work to be a ‘terrorists guide to the facility’ but was more than happy for me to use the projected map of Iran I found in a conference room. Smoke signals for those who care to look. I listened his commands as security alarms went off around us and a broad northern accent on the PA told us to remain where we were. I suggested I use conjectural descriptions of an environment I had been denied access to in replacement for the photographs I could have taken. I was an emphatic ‘No’ and ’who told you about these rooms..?’ I gave an unsatisfactory explanation of how I even knew about them. The truth was that no one told me anything, you just get to understand that certain things exist.
23rd January 2007….. the air never feels quite right and in certain areas is dead and hot. Today we looked at the diesels that would power the facility in an emergency, and the transformers which would give 17 minutes standby time transferring from one power source to another. David, my assistant, asked if there was any where to pray, Matthew said the first aid room would have to do. Maybe by then faith would really only reside only in ones self. I felt ill as Matt showed us the ‘back door’, a series of interconnecting gas tight doors. Each door must weigh several tons. We all swung it to and fro to feel its weight.
After photographing the ‘bomb shelter signs upstairs We met ******** who turned the questions on me … asking for my website address and what I thought about the existence of the facility…from time to to time we meet people who ,…an ill disguised psychoanalytic interrogation, pursue this line. It comes from people with less power and is probably something all staff here are instructed in……questions like ‘ what do you think about our involvement in Iraq?’; are occasionally dropped into conversation.
1st March 2007
Today we waited outside one particular room whilst the people inside covered up various bits of hardware and notices with post it notes. We were then allowed in a 20ft sq sealed area , obviously a space where cleaners don’t’ go, paper strewn everywhere, with two shirtsleeved men working in it. A ladder to a support cell connecting hatch and a very aesthetically inhospitable space. I spent 15 minutes making a few photographs, mainly of the ladder, and of hardware with sticky notes on it. One of the men left, the other sat and watched me, waiting for me, observing what I was doing, before he could turn his monitor on again. On leaving I thanked him for allowing us in, he said ‘ no worries’ but as I was talking to Kenny about the room opposite [ we were waiting for the keys to turn up]. The man started talking to us. ‘ For my part I didn’t want you here, you are shooting with wet film ,and having to take the film off the premises’. Me, “yes there is some trust involved here. Matthew and the powers that be are having sight of everything” HIM’..’ we don’t trust anyone here, its our job, we aren’t part of anything that goes on here and are in this room by grace and favour [ by which I assumed he was **** ***or similiar]..nothing personal, but we work with nasty bastards everyday and are trying to delay the inevitable happening, sooner rather than later. The work you are doing may put you at risk…before you go into the next room make sure it is all hunky dory..no disrespect to him [ he pointed at our guide] but he doesn’t know what is what in there and you need to be prepared. We then found more neutral conversational ground and talked about cameras, what they used to use [ RB 67’s] and with lots of “cheers mate” ‘s he closed the door with a bang.
A day in the basement, the lowest point within the whole complex, the diesel room the engine room, full of pumping equipment, oil fumes. Difficult to make work in this environment, I feel the weight of a London and military above us. Down below, noisy hot , difficult to make work, sitting astride one of the enormous diesels, thinking of Lee Miller on the Griffin building…and, the gung ho airman on the falling atom bomb in the final scene of ‘Dr Strangelove’ After that we go to an ‘office’ space, where we find ‘……….’ watching an early morning chat show. We discuss the furniture in the Prinicipal’s bedroom, [ ‘the only double bed in the whole place’…. ‘Good’ I think; it IS real] and how if you wanted to steal it you would have to smuggle it out in bits much like the escapees in ‘The Wooden horse’, gradually dispersing soil down baggy wartime flannels, facilitating an escape. We all shake our trousers in the way of the film.
email from J****
“Leaving aside work for a little while, I went to the Burnley FA Cup match. They won but didn’t look too convincing. Might go to Colchester for next round. I might also go to the game at QPR on 15 April if I can get the wife’s permission – do you fancy going and meeting up for a beer somewhere?”
16th October 2006
Alert state ‘heightened’
We are escorted by Kenny who tells us about his hobbies [ he asks if we have any ,I tell him I run twice a week ], he tells us that he makes models but only from the Vietnam era because they had the best kit. He goes on about about U.S. military history, ‘the USA went into Vietnam as peacekeepers’ ; [‘PEACEKEEPERS!’ said my assistant David ] and also really helpful, saying ‘yes’ a lot to my requests to get into various rooms. At one point he interrogates , David about is opinions on the Iraq conflict…I think he is onto him because he is wearing love beads…. anyway, everybody knows him down there and he eases our passage, [perhaps a little more than he bargained for] showing us rooms we were unaware of. These finds come as a result of me leading the way , photographing in corridor space and David and Kenny following. We see faces, people nod … Only one uppity senior officer plays a power game, talking over me and to Kenny and saying ‘what the bloody hell is going on?’ I try to appease him, though maybe with not the correct amount of grace
As we move toward the end of shooting, I am beginning, again, to question, why have I been allowed to do this. Did the Mod think it would be a PR exercise? Am I being used in some way? Or have they just not thought it through? There is no critical subtext here, it’s about being able to look, but wonder about the context and how this has been understood, or even knowable by the ‘powers that be’. My exotica is their everyday, their everyday, is chilling. No reply from M***** requesting a couple of extra days
A break in at darkroom space, drawers rifled through, etc. No expensive cameras touched. several studios in same complex affected. Nothing of value taken.
As we move toward the end of shooting, I am beginning, again, to question, why have I been allowed to do this. Did the Mod think it would be a PR exercise? Am I being used in some way? Or have they just not thought it through? There is no critical sub text here, it’s about being able to look, but wonder about the context and how this has been understood, or even knowable by the ‘powers that be’. My exotica is their everyday, their everyday, is chilling. No reply from M***** requesting a couple of extra days.
21st June 2007
Thanks for your email.
I have had a quick chat with ******. Whilst I wasn’t at your meeting in MoD with ******and ******, ***** has stated that nothing was agreed (signed-off) at that meeting; merely that he agreed to take away the wording for the captions in order that he could discuss with his colleagues in ******* ****** and with me when I returned from sick leave.
We have looked at the extracts from Hansard and have no problem with that. The issue is the association that could be made between your pictures and any words that you intend to use or have been published anywhere (incl in Hansard) that uses the word ”*********t” in a sentence with “…protected crisis management facility…”.
You should know that senior Cabinet Office staff have requested the changes to captions. It is for this reason that we insist that you accept all the changes that both Danny and I have asked for.
All words © David Moore 2008
website: David Moore
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