TPG Golden Editions: Simon Roberts

Simon Roberts, Saunton Sands #2, Devon, UK, 2008

TPG Golden Editions: Simon Roberts

The seventh release in TPG’s 50th Anniversary ‘Golden Editions’ series is this striking beachscape by British photographer, Simon Roberts (b.1974, UK).

Roberts is based in Brighton, UK, and is widely recognised for his large-format, tableaux photographs of the British landscape. His practice also encompasses video, text and installation work, which together, interrogate notions of identity and belonging, and the complex relationship between history, place and culture.

Simon Roberts, Saunton Sands #2, Devon, UK, 2008

TPG Golden Editions #7: Simon Roberts

Saunton Sands #2, Devon, UK, 2008
Edition of 25
Pigment print
20 x 24 ”
From £1,000 + vat

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Roberts shot Saunton Sands #2 whilst working on his acclaimed series, We English, which was first shown at The Photographers’ Gallery in 2009. Intrigued by the tradition of the road trip and how that might be represented in photography, Roberts and his family travelled across England in a motorhome between 2007- 2008. Encompassing landscapes and activities that reflect the English at leisure, the series explores the ways in which notions of nationhood, and quintessential Englishness are challenged by evolving and sometimes conflicting versions of national identity.

Because of Covid restrictions, Roberts has been unable to continue his travels and social interactions in the British landscape, so has used the time to revisit his library of images taken on previous journeys. It was during this process that he came across another version of the original Saunton Sands photograph, which incorporates the significant geological rocks that make up the wave-cut platform of Pilton Shale in the foreground. This new perspective anchors our eye to the dark textural base of the image where we notice pockets of people unaware of Roberts’ lens. As our focus begins to drift upwards the figures become indistinct from the landscape, and the muted colours of the coastline melt into the soft muted grey of the English sky. In Roberts’ We English blog — where he documented his research process and crowdsourced suggestions for activities to photograph — he points to works by British painters including William Powell Frith and JMW Turner, as well as documentary surveys by British photographers such as Tony Ray Jones and Paul Graham. Drawing from a rich history of British landscape photography and painting, We English pays tribute to and builds on the legacy of these artists, illustrating a population with a profound attachment to its local environment and homeland.

Simon Roberts has exhibited widely, and his photographs reside in major public and private collections, including the George Eastman House, Deutsche Börse Art Collection and Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2010 he was appointed the official British Election Artist by the House of Commons Works of Art Committee to produce a visual record of the General Election on behalf of the UK Parliamentary Art Collection; and in 2014 he represented Britain during the UK-Russia Year of Culture. He has been commissioned to make several large-scale public artworks and recognised with numerous awards including an Honorary Fellowship to the Royal Photographic Society, the Vic Odden Award and grants from Arts Council England and the John Kobal Foundation.

I’m delighted to be able to help celebrate and support the fiftieth anniversary of The Photographers’ Gallery through the Golden Edition scheme. TPG, as it’s fondly known by many, has been like a spiritual home to me over the years, starting with my early visits as a young photography student in the late 1980s and continuing to this day. I’m particularly thankful for the Gallery's (continued) commitment to support emerging talent, which has enabled many artists, myself included, to get a much-needed step-up at an early stage of our career. However, more than anything, the TPG has always been about the people and friendships that have developed here, with staff, fellow photographers and everyone who is so enthusiastic about photography as a medium. I still get that happy sense of anticipation when I cross over the threshold and step into a place that for me, feels so uniquely creative, exploratory and welcoming.”

Simon Roberts on his relationship with The Photographers' Gallery