Guest Speaker: Simon Roberts

Simon Roberts is a British photographer based in Brighton, UK. He originally studied  Human Geography at the University of Sheffield which has informed much of his subsequent photographic practice. Often employing expansive landscape photographs, his approach is one of creating wide-ranging surveys of our time, which communicate on important social, economic and political issues.

in this session, he talked about doing licensing for our images and stresses the importance of considering who has access to our images.

Simon Roberts initially wanted to create a body of work, to form a project, so he spent a year photographing all across Russia with his wife, who could translate the Russian language. He brought his Mamiya camera and shot extensively on film throughout his one year journey. They travelled throughout Russia, taking in 65 destinations from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. He was interested in reading photographs and pick out details. He wanted to engage with the people they lived with, their hosts. This resulted in the book and exhibition Motherland and the exhibition Polyarnye Nochi. His images of people conveyed a sense of scale, giving a real palpable sense of what Russia meant.


Roberts travelled throughout England in a motor home using a large format camera capturing people at play, and exploring the relationship between people and the places they visit. compare to his images of Russia, there was no coherent voice about the English Landscape at the time. He wanted to avoid what was done before.  not to repeat, but to echo it.

The way he approached was to first nurture his audience through early crowdfunding, asking the public for ideas. he posted images on newspapers to create awareness so that more people could follow his journey.

By elevation, it lifts the mid ground., gave him a better opportunity to see the landscape and build narratives into it. By photographing the theatrical and using the atmosphere to his advantage, the less likely for him to get stopped taking pictures. And this resulted in the book and exhibition We English

though this project he became obsessed with the idea of how places have changed over time, and how people relate to landscapes. About showing his images in different platforms, Roberts encouraged the Press of free use of certain type of images that represent them. He noted that book last longer and magazines short lifespan. Exhibitions were more of an installation.

In his latest projects, he was exploring the landscapes in postcards. he created new postcards by pairing two images together which would infuse new meaning into it.

To end of his session, he showed a film of his recent works, where he explored issues relating to aesthetics, performance, and individual and collective identities within our “culture of instantaneity”. He alluded that the Swiss landscape resembles a theatre set, where tourists are transported to officially designated areas of natural beauty to gaze upon epic views from the safety of stage-managed viewpoints.

However, most of the subjects depicted were clearly of Chinese nationalities who happened to be there on that day, which of course do not represent the generic meaning of the “tourist”.  This video didn’t sit well with me, not because I am one of them. I am not. But I do know that if this were to be shown to a Chinese audience, it could well provoke a negative reaction. I hope to see a better representation of “tourists” in  those locations.


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