For over a decade, Simon Roberts has photographed events and places across Britain that have drawn people together in public, reflecting on the nature of our shared histories and communal experiences. Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island brings together iconic images and many previously unpublished photographs, recording social practices and customs linked to the British landscape, as well as some of the economic and political theatre that has helped define recent history.
While Roberts’s interests have often gravitated towards evolving patterns of leisure, and the complex relationship between history, place and culture, he has also photographed events that have a more immediate, topical significance in Britain’s recent past, and which collectively form a detached visual chronicle of the times in which we live. Creating a view of contemporary society that is far from straightforward, Roberts critically conflates the traditional genre of landscape with social documentary, layering ideas of national character through relationships to both place and particular moments in time.
“Released in the wake of the nationalist triumph of Brexit, this brilliant new book takes the temperature of the UK, offering insights most necessary into notions of identity and belonging and, specifically, what it means to be British at this significant moment in contemporary history. With his customary elevated perspective and tableaux style, we oversee views of places and the people that populate them to form a survey: not only of spaces used for leisure and cultural activity but also subjects and events that can now be viewed as defining locations in recent times, such as the London 2012 Opening Ceremony or Grenfell Tower. A real socio-political mood piece, the power and urgency of which reminds us why Roberts is regarded as one of the leading UK photographers working today.” Tim Clark, 1000 Words, December 2017
Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island was published by Dewi Lewis Publishing (November 2017) and made possible thanks to the support of The Incite Project. The book includes an introduction by David Chandler and essay contributions from AL Kennedy, Alex Vasudevan, Carol Ann Duffy, David Matless, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Ian Jeffrey, Irenosen Okojie, Nikesh Shukla and Tristram Hunt.
An exhibition of Merrie Albion runs at Flowers Gallery in London from 19 January – 10 March and in New York from October 2018.
View installation shots here
Contact sheet of photographic plates (pdf)
Reviews – January 2018 (pdf)
At Ease by David Matless (pdf)
Gatherings by David Chandler (pdf)
i-SPY by Frank Cottrell-Boyce (pdf)
Occupying the Frame by Alexander Vasudevan (pdf)
Of Other Spaces by Irenosen Okojie (pdf)
Reality & Ritual in the Theatre of the Election by Tristram Hunt (pdf)
The Bath & West by Ian Jeffrey (pdf)