In 2010 Roberts was awarded the Election Artist commission by The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art in the British Parliament to create a series of artworks about the General Election. Each election cycle in Britain, an artist joins politicians, pundits, and news photographers on the campaign trail and produces his or her own interpretation of events. The only requirement is that the artists betray no political bias and that, upon completion, the works they create go on display in the Houses of Parliament.
Traversing the length and breadth of the country in a motorhome during the official 24 days of electioneering, Roberts aimed to capture as many political parties, in as wide a variety of constituencies as possible. In the spirit of We English he continued to use a tripod-mounted, large format plate camera, often shooting from the top of his vehicle. This allowed him a wide field of view, far removed from the up close and personal shots that are familiar from news media. His attention focused on the relationship between the canvassing politicians and the voting public. He recorded not only the three main political parties but also the smaller parties and independent candidates running for public office.
As an antithetic yet complementary accompaniment to his work, Roberts also encouraged public participation in the project. He invited people to visually express their opinions on the campaign by uploading their own photographs to a special website created for the purpose (www.theelectionproject.co.uk). The 1,696 images submitted by members of the public formed part of the final work alongside Roberts’ twenty five framed photographs: one representing each day he spent on the campaign trail, and a final photograph capturing an unexpected additional day: – the coalition talks.
The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, established in 1954, is a cross-party group of Members appointed by the Speaker to advise on the use and management of the Parliamentary Art Collection in the House of Commons. In 2001 the official artist was Jonathan Yeo, with David Godbold chosen for 2005. In 2015 the artist was Adam Dant in 2017 Cornelia Parker received the commission.