Les Monaghan

My tutor advised me to take a look at OCA tutor, Les Monaghan’s work, who also happens to be her husband. The particular oeuvre she was referring to was his ongoing series on the RAF’s survival exercises. She provided a bit of a backstory which definitely helps in the interpretation of Monaghan’s images. Monaghan was granted permission to shoot the RAF during their survival exercises, but was not allowed to interact with them. The result is at times, quite poetic and at other times has an element of surveillance.

There are numerous blog entries on Monaghan’s blog about this work.  In Moortrek – July 2013 The images are dominated by tall trees as the exercises take place in the forest. The RAF trainees are at times difficult to discern due to the camouflage of their uniforms which lets them blend in seamless into the environment. This results in the viewer searching through the trees for clues. Sometimes the subject(s) is at quite a distance from the photographer and this invokes a feeling of nostalgia. A sense of anticipation develops within the viewer. These tiny figures so dwarfed by the massive trees convey a sense of awe and fatalistic resignation to the elements of nature.

From Moortrek July 2013 series by Les Monaghan Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan
From Moortrek July 2013 series by Les Monaghan
Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan

The images are quite dark as well, being shot in the forest. I could be wrong, but it seems that Monaghan mainly made use of natural light. Occasionally splashes of bright red from the survival equipment provide the only colour variance from the otherwise overwhelmingly greenish/black palette.

In contrast, Moortrek – December 2012 takes place during the winter, in snowy conditions. (See links below for photos as there are a few Moortrek – December 2012 entries). In these images the RAF trainees no longer blend in with the surroundings. The forest is no longer such a dark, mysterious place. The snow on the forest floor and trees has brightened the images and the RAF trainees are now quite visible in their outdoor surroundings.

From Moortrek December 2012 series by Les Monaghan Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan
From Moortrek December 2012 series by Les Monaghan
Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan

The mood changes in Moortrek – September 2012. There seems to be a more personal element emerging and this is confirmed in Monaghan’s statement: “As the training follows similar lines each time and I am not interested in a documentary enquiry, I am free to overlay my feelings on the scene.” It is interesting to notice that in the earlier images in the Moortrek series – those of 2011 – the photographer is closer to the trainees. He is almost participating in their activities, but not quite. As the years go by, he seems to distance himself more and more from the troops, and a more personal nuance begins to become apparent in the work.

From Moortrek August 2011 series by Les Monaghan Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan
From Moortrek August 2011 series by Les Monaghan
Reproduced with permission from Les Monaghan

Les Monaghan directed me to the statement which accompanies this body of work, which I am posting below (click on statement to enlarge). I particularly like the dual format: the bold text of each word beginning the line serves as the title to the work if read vertically, while the horizontal text forms a free form poem about the work.

monaghan-current-conflicts-statementI really do like this work and am trying to think how this approach might work in my assignment. I think it might be rather difficult as office spaces (which is where my location is) are usually quite cramped and restricting, but there might be a few instances where I can apply some of these techniques. I’ll keep an open mind. Of course over the course the ten years that I have been working at the university I have taken hundreds of photos of staff, faculty and students, but unfortunately will not be able to use any of those images. But it might be worth considering doing a side project by using the archive at a later stage.

Reference List

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – September 2012 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/11/more-images-from-september-moortrek.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Images

Monaghan, Les (2013) Moortrek – July 2013 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2013/07/moortrek-july-2013.html [Accessed 17 January,  2017]

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – December 2012 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/12/moortrek-december-2012_2252.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – December 2012 [online] Available at:  http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/12/moortrek-december-2012_23.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – December 2012 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/12/moortrek-december-2012.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – September 2012 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/11/more-images-from-september-moortrek.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2012) Moortrek – September 2012 [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2012/11/moortrek-september-2012.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2011) Moortrek – August 2011 – trek [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2011/11/moortrek-august-2011-trek.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

Monaghan, Les (2011) Moortrek – March 2011 – first encounter [online] Available at: http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.ca/2011/11/moortrek-march-2011-first-encounter.html [Accessed 17 January, 2017]

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6 thoughts on “Les Monaghan”

  1. Very interesting, an intriguing concept too, to photograph with full awareness and permission but no interaction or influence. I am fascinated by the sequence of “Save” at the end of your post, presumably a result of autosave but it echoes the format of Les’ text above.

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    1. Thanks Kate. Not sure what you are referring to with the sequence of “Save”. I don’t see anything like that on my posting and have checked on another PC too. Can you email me a screenshot?
      Thanks.

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      1. It’s when I read it in the WordPress Reader, will have a look and see if it shows on the blog itself. Will mail you the screenshot.

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