In 2010 Simon Roberts was selected as the official British Election Artist, an appointment made by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, to create an historic record of the UK General Election. 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.
“Roberts’ Election photographs are like theatre sets, with myriad small dramas being played out in them. They repay scrutiny; as gestures, expressions, and involvement – or lack of – in the campaign process, are revealed. The public submissions, on the other hand, show a very British combination of cynicism, humour and the absurd. Taken as a whole, Roberts Election Project is far more than simply a record of what transpired to be an historic year in British politics. It is also an important overview of the British people and landscape in 2010.” Greg Hobson, Archive Magazine, October 2010
View installation shots here
To view the gallery of photographs supplied by the public, visit the Election Project website here
For more information and a full list of the works in the Parliamentary Art Collection, visit their website here
Essay by Greg Hobson: “Simon Roberts’ work – The Election Project in context” (link)
Essay by Sean O’Hagan: “The Election Project Public Gallery – an anthropology of ourselves?” (link)
Essay by Peter Wilby: “How the election was won” (link)
Contact sheet of photographic plates (link)
The Election Project Public Gallery (link)