Simon Roberts

Of all the photographers my tutor suggested I look at during my research for assignment three, the one whose work I found the most interesting was Simon Roberts. He promised me that; “His images very much ‘pull back’ from the main event allowing us to see beyond what would normally be expected.”

I have encountered Simon Roberts’ work before at the Somerset House exhibition “Landmark: The Fields of Photography”. Three examples for his series “We English” were shown along with one from “Olympiad XXX”.

The Olympiad series clearly demonstrate his “pulling back”. You might expect pictures of the Olympics to be dominated by sports and sportspeople. These are not ignored in Simon Roberts’ work but they are depicted within a context. Take this example of the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform Diving Final.


You can see the divers but they very much take second place to the arena, the cameras in the foreground dominate, the spectators are shown in the background, even the judges are in view.

There is no doubt about the location of the men’s marathon:


The Womens Cycliing Road Race pictured here at Box Hill in Surrey is an English landscape picture, with a group of cyclists and spectators.


Another of his series that strikes me is “Pierdom”. In this series he is setting out to depict every remaining British seaside pleasure pier.

There is not much context to place a pier in but Simon Roberts still employs the same style whereby he pulls back. Rather than getting close so that we can see the detail of the structure or the amusements available, he surrounds his piers with plenty of sea and sky.

For example, Blackpool South Pier:


Clevedon Pier:


Sandown Pier is blessed with the inclusion of a bit of beach:


Particularly poignant for me is Hastings Pier. As a youth I spent much of my leisure time in or under the pier and it was a particularly sad moment when I heard it had been subject to an arson attack.


This can be compared with one of mine taken from a similar position (and on a similar dull day):


My tutor particularly recommended his pictures from the general election campaigning.


The Election Project


For me, the overriding character of Simon Roberts is the irresistible Britishness of his work. “We English” and “Pierdom” obviously have the country as their subjects but he conveys throughout all his work a picture of the ordinary British, normal people, doing normal things that as a whole define the spirit of the nation. This is achieved through showing background, foreground, wide vistas, other subject matter additional to the “main subject”. Pulling back as he does enables a much bigger picture to be shown.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: