Simon Roberts ‘We English’ (research)

Simon Roberts began his career in editorial photography for newspapers. His work eventually led him to photograph modern day Russia where he addressed the fact that not all Russian people were drug addicts living in freezing conditions, which was the generalised view in the West. After completing this body of work, named ‘Motherland’, on his return to England he saw his country in a new way.

Roberts was inspired by the work of Tony Ray Jones, who had photographed England the way it was before it was influenced by America. Studying his work made Roberts see that to create a good photograph you had to immerse yourself in what you were photographing.

Until the 1970s photographers were not independent, and it was due to a trip to America, where photography was viewed and talked about in a different way, that Roberts’ got to see his craft in a new way.

In his collection ‘We English’ Roberts focussed on England’s changing culture and national identity. By photographing leisure activities he shows how we see ourselves and how we would like others to view us. He worked within a strict framework by only photographing in England, focusing on groups of people at leisure.

Roberts used a 5×4 camera and shot on film, so producing his work was very expensive as £7500 went on printing alone.  Therefore the most he photographed of one scene was fifteen shots. His images required a lot of planning and through his blog he invited people to tell him about suitable events.

To get the desired shots Roberts photographs from the top of his van with a tri-pod, which allows the background to get in and produces an effect similar to Dutch landscape paintings.

Roberts, S. (2009) We English. London: Chris Boot

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