Sunday, 23 August 2009

WE ENGLISH, by Simon Roberts.

Image copyright Simon Roberts

I have been planning to post about WE ENGLISH for a few days and then I go and get pipped to the post by The Guardian! Anyway I've been following the progress of this project over on the blog that was set up at the start of Simon's tour of England last year. It's been really interesting following a project from start, through to publication of a book, a great use of blogging and something I wish more Artists would do.

To be honest as I followed I feared the end result was going to be a little twee, and it is a walk through the sunnier side of England. Nothing wrong with that though, cynical photographers are "Two a penny" and I include myself in that category. It is after all a look at the English through the landscape of leisure,and I think this is a really interesting angle and a great way to hone in on how we think of England. If I have a gripe, and of course it's me, so I do, and that's why you love me. I'm not sure about the title. It seems too broad for the subject which is England's landscape explored through leisure and pastimes and the way that, that forms our view of England. So more about the landscape and our relationship to an aspect of it than the English as a people, which I feel the title points to? But that's me just being picky and trying to find fault in what is a great piece of work that I think will stand out amongst the current crop of "Englishness" studies,

9 comments:

Stan B. said...

Wow! Never knew images so "pretty" could be so damn beautiful!

marcus doyle said...

I too have been following the progress of Mr Roberts and really appreciate the amount of effort that goes into a project like this, let alone keeping a blog on it.
I always thought that from the beginning Roberts would never top his Motherland project which is always the danger with such fine bodies of work.
To me 'We English' (agree with you on the title) looks like it was all shot in one afternoon. Theres seems to be no depth to the images and I find myself quickly getting bored with a field full of small people, a beach full of small people, a hill with small people etc etc.
I think Roberts has been offered a book deal after Motherland, worked to a deadline and basically fluffed an opportunity to create something exquisite. A project like this should take years, not months...
One last thing, look out for Tom Stoddart's next project on a similar theme....Incredible!

Mark Page said...

I think I agree with both of you! Marcus I do agree that the project needed to be a lot broader in contents, and I perhaps the small people thing is getting a little over used. I think it may soon find it's way into my "New Cliches of Photography" series of posts.

However the more time I've spent with the work over the last couple of days the more like Stan I do find some real beauty in some of the individual images. To big a subject and title though, for this method.

Stan B. said...

To be honest, the wee folk motif does seem a tad overdone here (and elsewhere)- but then, it would be hard to proclaim final judgement just from these wee files...

I don't even know if I would buy the book, assuming I could afford it- but as previously mentioned, it does have some exquisite individual images. Perhaps upon viewing the prints (or book) I'd better understand and agree as to why he kept everything at a distance- or not.

Stan B. said...

Fortunately, I chose to read first (it gets tiring making a fool of oneself repeatedly) before I submitted a question to Mr. Roberts as to why he chose his people at a distance compositions. And agree with him or not, at least he bothers to explain his modus operandi right under the very first picture from the series featured on his blog and taken at Skegness Beach.

marcus doyle said...

No argument about some of the individual images...I just think someone of Roberts calibre 'could' of done a much better job, in my opinion of course.
Love that bin shot of yours, Very English, if, I may be so bold...

Mark Page said...

Stan & Marcus,
I wrote a longish reply to both your points and then did'nt save it! Boiled down it was Stan, yes he doe's and Marcus thank's it's from a series I've been working on for last twelve months or so. About the St Georges flag and what it stands for.......

Stan B. said...

Yes, he does, doesn't he?

And what does the flag stand for- is it related to The Nights Templar? And yes, nice shot- was going to say you're going to have to make a series now... but I see you already have, as I once again save my ass from complete embarrassment (something tells me I'm gonna break my record when it really counts). Maybe there's a certain competition you can send your essay to...

Mark Page said...

Yeah It goes way back to The Knights and is of course the flag of England. It is also still hated by many Muslims and was dropped by The Red Cross as a symbol in many Arab states.
In the UK now it is gaining the same kind of conatations as the Rebel flag in your country. And it's this that I am trying to explore. I've a while to go yet so Joergy boy is just going to have to wait.........