Simon Roberts is British photographer whose landscape work explores the relationship people have with the land and issues of identity and belonging. Much of Roberts’ work evokes for me a reminder of the landscapes of Monet or Renoir which depict people going about their activities as integral to the landscape they were painting. Like the impressionists, for Roberts the individual is rarely the primary focus of a photograph, but rather he adopts a more pulled back perspective that clearly shows “people” in a space doing something. Roberts work is also reminiscent of work by of David Hurn, Martin Parr and Robert Frank and others of that generation.
Another aspect of Roberts work is that he has found benefit in a slightly elevated perspective using the roof of his camper van as a platform. This affords a view which allows the scene to be ever so slightly “decluttered” achieving a degree of separation between elements of the photograph that would not be possible from ground level, and yet is not so elevated as to seem a different perspective to that which a viewer might experience from the ground. It makes a scene seem clearer and yet familiar at the same time.
I think it is also a technique that allows Roberts to almost disappear from the surroundings in a way that results in better, more natural photographs than would be achieved from the ground. It is my experience, as counter-intuitive as it may seem that people in busy places don’t look up, and while he might seem conspicuous atop a camper van, the likelihood is that he is actually less so. People therefore would be more likely to go about their activities in more normal and natural ways allowing Roberts to capture people as they truly are in the places he chooses to photograph. As in the example below, although he is quite nearby, nobody seems aware of his presence.
Roberts work provides some examples and insights for my work at Coul Links. I too use elevated perspectives tending to “perch” on the higher ground where I have more commanding views. My more recent work in trying to include people engaging in normal activity within the landscape also uses a more distant perspective and I am conscious of trying to not be noticed by my subjects, human or wildlife. The more invisible I am the more likely I am to get a photograph of “normal” behaviour.
Work – Simon Roberts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://www.simoncroberts.com/work/
And from personal notes taken during Simon Roberts Guest Lecture