Rik Moran: Chance Encounters in the Valley of Lights
One has a sneaking suspicion that something is awry as soon as you pick up Rik Moran’s new monograph Chance Encounters in the Valley of Lights and begin to peruse the strange and bizarre tale that unfolds within its pages. Published by CentreCentre, the dark and almost threatening cover image of a gray urban landscape is another clue that this is not your typical photo narrative. Other clues strike you as you open the book to endsheets comprising a report from the British Ministry of Defense followed by a peculiar memorandum about an “unusual sighting” from the same Ministry and a tabloid portrait of an ex-Police Constable, Alan Godfrey. Something is definitely amiss.
Just as your curiosity reaches a peak, Moran pivots to a series of rural and urban landscapes that introduces “the Valley” where the rest of the visual narrative unfolds. The narrative concerns a series of mysterious and unexplained incidents that occurred in the early 1980’s in the West Yorkshire town of Todmorden, said to have more UFO sightings per capita than anywhere else in Britain. The incidents include the strange and unresolved death of a Polish immigrant, Zygmunt Adamski, who was found dead and shirtless by the aforementioned PC Godfrey atop a coal pile with no notable cause of death other than a small burn on the back of his neck. The local coroner is mystified by the death that defies explanation.
Six months later, the intrepid PC Godfrey finds himself in another life altering encounter while investigating a report of cattle roaming at a local estate. As he delves into the cattle caper, he stumbles upon a large dome-shaped craft that blinds him with a flash of light. Twenty-five minutes later and 100 yards away he awakens with no idea of what transpired. He is left with a split left boot and a red mark on his foot, neither of which he can explain. Thus begins Rik Moran’s photographic exploration of PC Godfrey’s fate as the tabloid press picks up the story and Todmorden becomes center stage for UFO sightings, tales of extraterrestrial visitors and unexplained death and abduction.
This sci-fi mayhem is documented in a fascinating way as Moran includes archival material that bolsters the plight of PC Godfrey. Documentation, transcripts of hypnosis sessions with PC Godfrey, interviews and re-enactments proliferate throughout the book leading this viewer to begin to believe the hapless constable’s story.
The book has a Weegee-esque feel at times as you view the images of a hypnosis session or poor Mr. Adamski’s death re-enactment. To avoid a spoiler alert, I will refrain from mentioning what the hypnosis session revealed about the missing 25 minutes, but it will be sure to delight anyone who appreciates the eerie alternative worlds of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. I will also avoid any explanation of the autonomous UFO committee that decides to embrace and embellish the tale with fervor. Pick up this tome to see what transpires.
Rik Moran is a UK-born, Miami-based, photographer focused on environments and spaces, the memories that inhabit them, and the residual stories and emotions left behind. He has studied at Central Saint Martins in London, leading to a lengthy career in design and branding.
In 2016 he had an exhibition as part of Photo Ireland entitled “Stray Dogmas”, sharing a space in Dublin’s Smithfield Square with Esther Teichmann and in 2021 his work was part of a group show at the International Center of Photography in New York. His work has been featured in The Guardian, Dazed, Creative Review, Port magazine, and Umbrella magazine among others.
Follow Rik Moran on Instagram: @rikmoran
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