June 05. 2014 2:30AM
By ROB LEAVEY
Special to the Union Leader
Perhaps more than any other creative medium, photography captures moments in time that in turn can help create additional meanings or a larger cultural framework in which a society can look back at itself.For photographer Richard Moore, however, such an interpretation of his craft only tells part of his story, as he is more concerned with recording time's actual passage.
Moore describes the process of digitally merging antique and contemporary photographs of the same location, which he refers to as “twice-seen images,” as forensic photography. “These images always begin with the antique image and the search for the original camera location,” he said.Upon determining the original photographer's location, he said he sets up his tripod and waits for something to happen. When selecting the contemporary image to merge with the scanned original, he said he does more than simply “mash” them together, as he decides what to bring forward and back and which parts he wants to obscure.In looking to capture the passing of time as opposed to the fact it merely exists, Moore said he spent the past two years visiting Monhegan Island, located 12 nautical miles off the coast of Maine.
Citing its role as an early fishing and trade station with a history that dates back to 1614 when Captain John Smith first landed there, he said he initially viewed the project as he had many others.Upon arriving in 2012, however, he said he discovered the entire year-round island population - approximately 50 persons - was planning its 400th year anniversary for the summer of 2014.
More than an event to honor what the locals refer to as the island's quadricentennial, Moore said the planned festivities are in part designed to recreate its 300th anniversary commemoration in 1914.“It was a great celebration-the entire island was decked out,” he said.
In learning more about the event, he said it became clear the project was best served by a more expansive format, which led him to conceive an entire book rather than a portfolio.Titled “Monhegan Come Again,'' his book has recently been published and includes 53 composite images of the island.
For Moore, the project has special significance, though, as the vintage images he used for the book possess a deep meaning in and of themselves.“In the late 1800's, the island was discovered by a small group of New York painters, including photographers,” he said. “The historical photographs in these composite images are from that era of transition when the island moved from primarily a fishing station to an artist colony.”In addition to the photographs, the book features a foreword by historian Earle Shettleworth Jr., an essay by photographer Douglas D. Prince, and a poem by Iris Miller.
The book also includes excerpts from a journal Moore kept while on the island-an experience he acknowledges he sometimes has trouble believing even occurred.“It's hard to believe it happened,” said Moore, who noted the response to his book has been very favorable, especially by year-round island residents-many of whom are fishermen.
“They are very private people, so it's been wonderful to see their reaction,” he added. “I was also very surprised by their involvement and support. To even have a slight admission into that year-round community was really most unexpected and has created lasting personal benefits to me… . This project would not have happened without their support and contributions.”On Friday, June 6, Moore's virtual odyssey will come to a symbolic close when he signs copies of “Monhegan Come Again'' at the New Hampshire Art Association's Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery in Portsmouth.“It's ceased to be mine,” he said. “The photos have acquired a meaning of their own, which means people may see it very differently from how I see it - and that's fine with me.”
What is also “fine” for Moore is any larger implications people may draw from his book and work in general, which touch on why he continues to merge the old with the new.“All the people in these historical photos are from the past-they are dead,” he said. “Death is a powerful aspect of art. If people can look at the passing of life in these composite images and experience the depth of that and chuckle in the face of it, that's what I'm after.”