Reviews

Tearsheet

Selected Reviews:


“Roberts travelled around England in a motorhome to produce his large-scale photographs of the English at rest and play. The results are epic vistas captured from a distance that are both timeless and contemporary.”

Sean O’Hagan, Observer, October 2011


“Roberts’ manner is calm. He shows people small in the landscape, clustered into groups rather than isolated as individuals. He likes to shoot from relatively high, so we see patterns. It is partly a show about ritual in the landscape, the strange things we do to feel we belong. It is partly about how the very numbers of us who come to enjoy the land spoil the thing we admire. A strong theme is about movement, but Roberts shrewdly notices how much movement is local. Playing golf still has something pastoral about it, even in the shadow of the very power station which employed you. These elegant pictures invite multiple readings, but they do it with confidence and zest. With flashes of wit, humanity, and abundant respect for his photographic predecessors, Simon Roberts has added a good one to the canon of surveys of the English.”

Francis Hodgson, Critic, November 2011


“Best new book on England for many years.”

Martin Parr, The Telegraph, December 2009


“Quite simply, the images are beautiful, though perhaps not immediately revealing - their beauty can encourage the clumsy habit of overlooking what they contain. The best of these photographs are remarkable in the layers that Roberts's has managed to capture - environment, group and individual. And truly the three inform and shape the others.”

Sarah Bradley, Photo-Eye Magazine, January 2010


“We English is a complex body of work – photographically simple in one sense, but imagistically complicated, with many different inferences, not all of them immediately appearance, so one can be grateful for the book’s size, which enables one to see much of the detail in the pictures. Whether it can be considered as art or documentary, I don’t care – the so-called painterly aspects of the work interest me the least. What does interest me is that Simon Roberts has produce an intelligent and persuasive vision of our contemporary English mores – a Tony Ray-Jones for the 21st century.”

Gerry Badger, - The International Journal of Photographic Art and Practice, Issue 58/Winter 2010


“We English, the title of Roberts’s engrossing exhibition of large-scale color photographs (and the related book) might lead you to expect gently satiric social studies in the style of Martin Parr. But the focus of the work is primarily landscape, and several of the images are broad, handsome vistas with only a few people scattered about the terrain. Even the photographs that include larger groups were taken from a distance—a perspective that echoes classical painting, although the subjects (golfers before a line of cooling towers, race contestants sloughing through the mud of a river at low tide) are decidedly contemporary.”

Vince Aletti, The New Yorker, October 2009


“While many of Roberts' images adhere to our traditional notions of beauty spots, others are of noisy, packed events like Derby Day. In each, however, the framing is such that the subjects are fixed firmly within their environment. Individuals are rendered small but, significantly, we can still read them by their expressions, their clothes and what they're doing. It's a technique that links back to landscape painting and the layered canvases of the 16th century. As a contemporary record, however, Roberts has captured a nation beautifully and brilliantly."

Creative Review, The Photography Annual, October 2009


“This excellent book deserves to be even more successful than his first.”

AG Magazine, Issue 57, Autumn 2009


“The movement that Ray-Jones began and Parr continues is also one in which Simon Roberts is at home. His monumental study We English manages to combine a fascination with social rituals such as St George's day pageants and visits to the seaside with the type of huge-scale and distant large format 'grand views' that appear to come straight out of the American tradition….For Roberts, landscape is a site of leisure pursuits, and this viewpoint fits well with both contemporary social thought and the consumption-obsessed imagery of much current documentary. But he manages somehow to allow the sublime beauty of many of these settings through, and to make pictures of lasting quality.”

Peter Hamilton, British Journal of Photography, 18 November 2009


"A gorgeous series of lyrical, light-strewn photographs that the artist took of the English at play—bathers in a chilly-looking Gloucestershire, a couple miniaturized amid misty hills in East Sussex—on a tour of his homeland."

New York Magazine, October 2009



“We English does not necessarily present a wholly Romantic view of the countryside for Roberts, more often than not, hones in on manufactured scenes. Indeed, Roberts also fits in largely within the tradition of photographing England….His work is unashamedly beautiful, more subtle in its discovery and representation of forms of cultural character and identity which actually, upon closer inspection, reveals a much great richness of detail and meaning. With a Simon Roberts it is a case of the more you look, the more you see. We English has tremendous historical and anthropological interest; it takes us on an amazing journey through ideas of belonging and memory, identity and place. It is one of the those rare books than you can and will come back to time and time again.”

1000 Words Magazine, Issue 06, Fall 2009


“We English adopts the slightly elevated vantage point known from painting, using a large-format camera. The photographs indeed look like paintings, with their often vast vistas, in which people often are mere specks…Given the universality that I find in We English, the book has an appeal that extends beyond the borders of England. Whatever the people in those photographs are doing might define them as "the English", but it can also relate to other people. And what better portrait of your own country could you create than one that does talk about our human condition?”

Joerg Colberg, Conscientious Blog, October 2009


“We English looks at the country with a lyrical pastoral gaze rather than irony or sarcasm…Roberts shows people engaged in group leisure activities presented small in the frame and with light that is unfashionably undramatic. It’s a body of work that is unfashionable not only stylistically and in subject matter too. To take the photographs, Roberts covered his head with a dark cloth to peer through the concertina of a large-format view camera, essentially unchanged since the 19th century, and shot on film.”

Design Week, September 2009


“Capturing everyday English residents occupied in an assortment of activities, the artist uncovers the aesthetic of ordinary life. The majority of Roberts’ images depict the exquisiteness of the English landscape and reveal those who are attracted to its landmarks.”

Hotshoe, Issue 162, October/November 2009


“A project of this size can often take an unexpected turn and the final edit is sometimes the most challenging part. It's tough to step back from the creation of the photographs, allowing yourself to see the pictures in the way a viewer will, and not as you remember them….Simon has achieved all he set out to, and much more. The pictures are in themselves undeniably beautiful, but their real power comes from the collection as a whole. To remove from the stream of time a series of moments that are instantly recognisable as being part of life in England is a real achievement, and one that will ensure this collection will become the defining study of life in England at the end of this decade.”

Phil Coomes, BBC News Online, October 2009


“The first place he photographed was the beach at Skegness in Lincolnshire, where people have holidayed since the nineteenth century. It’s a bit grim. The sky is overcast and the water brown, there is litter and everyone is bundled up, wearing coats. The scene is mundane and familiar to many, but Roberts has managed to bring a lyrical quality to it. The sea and sky are huge, the view is elevated and looking down we get a vast sense of space….There are two stories in his photographs: one is everyday, the other is eternal.”

Hannah Duguid, The Independent, 1st October 2009


“We English has all the hallmarks of a great body of work by a photographer of considerable depth. It shuns the flashy “in-yer-face” tactics so commonplace in favour of quiet thought and subtle observation. It is work that repays the reader through frequent re-examination: full of humour, but more subtle than Erwitt; full of commentary, but less judgemental than Parr; full of beauty, but without cliché.”

Michael Cockerham, Blue Filter, October 2009


“In August 2007 award-winning photographer Simon Roberts embarked upon a 13-month journey around England…The resulting photographs are lush in their painterly composition but defiantly mundane in subject matter, conceived as an unflinching and unbiased exploration of what it means to be English today.”

Eluxury, September 2009


“Low and leaden skies, grey rain-streaked beaches, toxic-looking yellow stubble in farmers’ fields, caravan parks hoisting the flag of St George and the assorted leisure activities of the Great British public: shooting a birds, car boot sales, mud races and Derby Day. The influence of past masters is evident, but Roberts’s wide-open images allow in as much landscapes as possibly. This shows we leisure-practitioners in context, organic elements within a larger canvas. We look as dull as the topography and weather, occasionally lit up by a Turner-esque ray of sunshine. While Roberts is not the first to find beauty in bleakness, or in the mundane, even moronic, weekend habits of the English, he brings to the treatment an irony-free and lovingly meditative gaze.”

Chris Morris, Timeout London, 22-28 October 2009


“Several of Simon Roberts’ shots of his country and her inhabitants, call to mind Massimo Vitali’s swarming beach images, yet Simon’s gatherings of people are different – somehow more English. The spaces come across as less tidy. Other motifs reminds us of Martin Parr’s soft touch, just more sublime and somehow more honest.”

Go See, Issue 38, September 2009


Download a pdf of the reviews here