CREATIVE REVIEW, October 2009
Book Review of We English
Landscape as Portrait
"In his book, We English, photographer Simon Roberts looks at contemporary English leisure in all its collective glory.
Like a well-planned domestic family holiday, photographer Simon Roebrts' journey around England for his latest book was a mission in itself. He took his Talbot Express Swift Capri motorhome (plus family) and a hefty 5 x 4 large-format camera on a quest to capture the English at leisure. We English, the result of his year spent on the road, is far from being a nostalgia trip; it is a document of free time - be it spent at the races or at the beach - as english people experience it today.
Roberts approached his project with the view that one's experience of landscape is vital to the national make-up. In his previous book, Motherland, he looked in from an outsider's point of view, recording Russians' attachment to their native country. Returning to England, and through the 56 colour images taken between the summers of 2007/8, he charts how the landscape influences and shapes the English.
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."