Wild Wales - Jeremy Moore Photography
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Burial site, Berwyn mountains, north Wales
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A PERSONAL HISTORY - OR, HOW I BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER

  For me photography has always been an extension of other interests. As a young boy I was introduced to the delights of trainspotting by my father, and during the mid 1960's - my early teenage years - I rushed around the country ticking off the last giants of the steam age, more often than not rusting away in sidings. Seeing a  working steam engine was a powerful experience for a still small boy, however, and my first pictures were perhaps an attempt to capture those feelings in a visual sense.

Stanier 8F locomotive, Manchester, 1968  I began to process and print my own black  and white  photographs at school, but then the end of steam in 1968, and the demolition of the school dark- room, put an end to my first phase of picture making.

  There followed a number of years where other interests firmly took over. I was growing up in the hippy era and had enrolled on a University course in psychology. I found my course very unsatisfactory - I thought it might be a study of people but discovered it was anything but that. In many ways I was an unadventurous student  and spent evening after long evening propped up on a floor cushion or in an armchair listening to rock music in a haze of smoke . Why on earth did we all do it?

  But it was also a period of intense self-searching, and I believe it may have done me some good in the long run! My course had taught me to steer well clear of psychology as a career and I learned that  to be satisfied in life I should be true to myself and not to what others wanted for me. I was developing a genuine interest in wildlife and the countryside; the green movement was just beginning and I wanted to be part of it. After leaving university - I got my degree, somehow - I worked as a gardener and then  on a nature reserve in the Nottingham area. While there I began bird-watching and learned the difference between a reed bunting and a reed warbler, among other things. It was the beginning of an interest which has stayed with me.

  At the same time my interest in photography was being re-kindled. During my university years my father had given me his old camera, and I can remember wandering around with it on the riverside at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, taking pictures of the bridges and their reflections. When I showed the results to some friends they told me I ought to become a photographer, but it never occurred to me to take them seriously.

  I moved to rural Wales in 1977 as many of my university friends did, and Brocken spectre and glory, Isle of Mull, 1981 found myself in a paradise for the birdwatcher. Just a few minutes walk from my first flat in Wales I could see hen harriers, merlins and peregrine falcons, among many others. I began to learn more quickly in preparation, I hoped, for a career in wildlife conservation, but this proved far more difficult than I expected. I was very inexperienced and soon large numbers of environmental science graduates were beginning to enter the  "jobs market". For a number of years I tended to work during the summer and spend the rest of the year travelling, taking photographs and bird-watching.

  My picture-making skills continued to develop during this period, but curiously, despite my interest in wildlife, I never seriously considered becoming a wildlife photographer.     Perhaps, in the visual sense at least, I see the bigger picture, and I have always tended to concentrate on the landscape. I knew I had some photographic talents and I used to entertain my friends with slide shows of visits to places such as the Swiss Alps, Corsica and Greenland. I had sold my first photographs in 1981 - a mountain scene with Brocken Spectre and "glory"  on the Isle of Mull (see right) -  but it is a far cry from that sort of thing to becoming a professional.

  In my case the transition took about five years. It became clear that a full-time career in conservation would probably be impossible for me, and the idea of making a living from photography  - unlikely as it seemed - became more attractive.   On trips to Scotland and Ireland I discovered that photographers there had begun publishing their own ranges of really high quality postcards and I wondered if I could do the same in Wales. I organised my first exhibition in 1986 and decided to produce a few postcards to tie in with it . Although my first attempts left a lot to be desired sales were promising. I eventually found a printer I could rely on and each year produced a few more cards. At first I concentrated my efforts on the area surrounding my home in mid-Wales, but gradually took in the three Welsh National Parks as well.  

Tree-related placename, London, 1989   A further exhibition - on our relationship with trees and woodland - further developed my reputation, and eventually racks of postcards outside shops in many parts of Wales became a good advertisement for my skills. But it was not until my first book was published in 1997 that I felt my career was really on track, and I will always be grateful to the late writer and naturalist   William Condry, who gave me the lucky break I needed. Not that the life of a freelance photographer is ever truly secure - one must be able to deliver the goods every time. Furthermore the landscape photographer is totally weather dependent and this plays havoc with your social life. One needs to make sacrifices to succeed.

 I began to do commissioned work on a regular basis, particularly for the Wales Tourist Board, and earned a good living for a number of years. More recently problems over copyright have soured my relationship with the WTB and I have worked on my own projects to a greater degree, with Arts Council funding in some cases. It has also become clear that working full time to other people's requirements has a negative effect on one's own creativity. The same could be said for producing photographs suitable for postcards, of course, but  the modest income they generate allows me the time and space to develop my own vision. 

In recent years it has become more and more difficult for the photographer to earn a living. The use of "copyright grabs" by clients such as the Welsh Assembly Government is one seemingly intractable problem. The apparent ease of use of digital equipment by the amateur, and  their willingness, desire even, to give their images away, has devalued the worth of images produced by the professional. Potential clients know this, and reproduction fees have plummeted. The easy dissemination of images over the internet has led to increasing numbers of "orphan  works" whose owners are unknown (or are claimed to be) which are used without payment or accreditation. It may be self-defeating in some ways, but I prefer to keep control of my images and putting them online, for example, is a guaranteed method of losing that control.

  Working alongside authors with different interests, as I am now doing, introduces the photographer to types of subject matter that they would not necessarily tackle themselves. I have in fact become more interested in the built environment in recent years, and my wish to photograph Blaenau Ffestiniog has not proved to be a flash in the pan. In fact I have become a little disillusioned with the label "landscape photographer", and the expectation that "nature" is the only acceptable subject for their attentions. The oversaturated images,"golden hour" light, 10 stop ND filters and other techniques of the modern "landscaper" hold little interest for me. The images sometimes appear polished and processed to within an inch of their lives. I am still interested in depicting our surroundings, but in a more documentary style, perhaps, than previously. It is often said that the quality of light is all, but what about the subject matter the photographer chooses? As my career continues to develop, I'm continuing to experiment with different subjects. 

After many years specialising in the landscape I began to focus more and more on wildlife. This transition began during my work on the book "Wales at Waters Edge." It seemed unsatisfactory to describe the Welsh coastline without including its wildlife. Following its publication I continued to focus on wildlife, although almost always within a landscape context. "Bird/land", the resulting exhibition, was very successful, with critical acclaim and signiicant sales. However my main source of income, even though sales continue to dwindle , is my postcards, and production of new images still takes a large proportion of my time in the field. You would be surprised how difficult it is to get the right blend of location , light and poular appeal.

  I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of photographer with a broad spectrum in between. There are those whose interests lie in the equipment and processes involved , and those with a passion for their subject matter. I'm firmly at the latter end of the spectrum. I believe that in a certain sense the land is sacred and that we have a duty to respect it. Consequently I have very strong ideas about how the land should be used. It is perhaps at the point where our activities intersect with the natural world that the most interesting prospects - in an intellectual sense - lie for the landscape photographer. These might be what Richard Mabey called"The Unofficial Countryside", and Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts described as the "Edgelands".

But it is probably the wild landscape - morning mist in the valley bottom, or a mountain landscape in brilliantly clear air - that has the wow factor which I never tire of seeking.

  So please don't ask me what type of camera I'm using!