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Simon Roberts travelled across England in a motorhome between 2007 and 2008 for this portfolio of large-format tableaux photographs of the English at leisure. We English builds on his first major body of work, Motherland (2005), with the same themes of identity, memory and belonging resonating throughout. Photographing ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, Roberts aims to show a populace with a profound attachment to its local environment and homeland. He explores the notion that nationhood – that what it means to be English – is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by banal pastimes and everyday leisure activities. The resulting images are an intentionally lyrical rendering of a pastoral England, where Roberts finds beauty in the mundane and in the exploration of the relationship between people and place, and of our connections to the landscapes around us.
We English was published by Chris Boot Ltd (2009) and has been selected as one of the 30 most influential photobooks of the last decade (more). A major exhibition of the work was show at the National Media Museum, UK in 2010 and is currently on tour.
“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 are decidedly contemporary.” Vince Aletti, The New Yorker, 2009
For more information about the project and touring exhibition schedule, visit the We English website/ blog here.
View installation shots here.
Book essay by Stephen Daniels: “The English Outdoors” (pdf)
In Conversation with Stephen Daniels, Ruth Kitchin and Simon Roberts (pdf)
National Media Museum/We English touring exhibition guidelines (pdf)
Contact sheet of photographic plates (pdf)