January 19th, 2010 admin

Here is a review of We English by Sarah Bradley that has just published in Photo-Eye Magazine:

Simon Roberts produced the images for We English during a year visiting popular recreational sites across England. It’s an intriguing way to investigate a country, one which served my family well when living in England while I was 13 (we actually visited some of Robert’s locations). It’s served Roberts well, too. Documenting his countrymen beach combing, pheasant hunting, visiting car boot sales, hiking and spending afternoons at the lake, Roberts’s images are landscapes of English leisure, both natural and social.

Quite simply, the images are beautiful, though perhaps not immediately revealing – their beauty can encourage the clumsy habit of overlooking what they contain. The best of these photographs are remarkable in the layers that Roberts’s has managed to capture – environment, group and individual. And truly the three inform and shape the others.

We English, by Simon Roberts. Published by Chris Boot, 2009.

The 86 photographs in the book depict an array of interactions with the outdoors. Though sometimes sparsely populated, the effects of human use are visible in every image, ranging in severity from the scars running up green hillsides to the garish architecture of seaside Black Pool – all causalities of joyful use. But while are landscapes molded by the activities of the masses, they are enjoyed by the individual, and Roberts’s large-format images are detailed enough (and the book’s printing sharp enough) to look at the individual. This is really where Roberts won me over; tiny black specs in the sea become surfers, a mother takes a picture with her child, a kid sits alone in contemplation among the crowd. Each figure is fascinating, an individual acting within the group.

We English, by Simon Roberts. Published by Chris Boot, 2009.

This edition does a wonderful job of presenting Roberts’s images. Even so, I feel like there’s more to this work. The book ends with an essay by Roberts which reads like an engaging artist’s talk, referencing and explaining not every image, but those that serve as speaking points in the evolution of the project, providing a personal, logistical and sociological context. I wish this text had been longer – Stephen Daniels’s introduction is an informative history, but I’m not convinced it was the best set-up for Roberts’s work. I’m interested in hearing more from Roberts on this project – and I’m curious to see what he does next. —Sarah Bradley


January 16th, 2010 admin

I enjoyed this post by Michael Cockerham over on Blue Filter, which went up this afternoon (and here are the links to Photo Eye and their review of the best photo books of 2009, along with “Bollos” on Amazon)-


January 14th, 2010 admin

I’m going to be giving two lectures in the coming weeks as part of the Royal Geographical Society’s regional lecture program.

Lecture title: Motherland, Homeland – A photographic journey through Russia and England.

Lecture description: Unravel the stereotypes and identify what connects people with places and landscapes. An unflinching, unbiased exploration of what it means to be both Russian, and English, today.

The first is at the King’s Lynn Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd January.

Saturday 23  January, at 20.00
Regional Theatres Programme
Venue: King’s Lynn Arts Centre, 27-29 King Street, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 1HA

Tickets: RGS-IBG Members and one guest £8 (quote membership number) Box Office (01553) 764864 or book online.

The second will be at the Darlington Arts Centre on Tuesday 9th February.

Tuesday 9 February, at 20.00
Regional Theatres Programme
Venue: Darlington Arts Centre, Vane Terrace, Darlington, DL3 7AX
Tickets: RGS-IBG Members and one guest £8.50 (quote membership number) Box Office Telephone: 01325 486555 or online.

You can find out more on the Royal Geogarphical Society’s website here (for King’s Lynn) and here (for Darlington).


January 4th, 2010 admin

Here is a video interview I did recently with Jim Casper at Lens Culture as part of his ‘Conversations with Photographers’ series where I discussed my approach to making Motherland and We English.

Casper introduced the interview with the following: “British Photographer Simon Roberts chooses to embark on long-term, in-depth visual studies of people and the places they live. He describes his work as socio-documentary photography, which when viewed as a whole, can be seen as a rich, subjective source of visual anthropology of contemporary life.”

Simon Roberts: Lens Culture Conversations with Photographers from Jim Casper on Vimeo.


December 28th, 2009 admin

Writing in today’s The Guardian, Sean O’Hagan selects his favourite photography books of the year, which include We English.

He writes: “Closer to home, the English were the subjects of two intriguing books: Simon Roberts’s We English (Chris Boot, £40) and Chris Steele-Perkins’s England, My England (Nothumbria Press, £30). Roberts’ book is a kind of gentle celebration, its images captured on a large-format 5×4-inch camera and owing as much to the English landscape painting tradition as any photographic precedent. It’s a grower. Steele-Perkins, a Magnum veteran, opts for a more sweeping documentary approach that shows the English at work and at play over the last four decades. By turns gritty and evocative, it is a book one imagines that Orwell would have liked very much.”


December 27th, 2009 admin

Magnum photographer Martin Parr has selected my ‘Chelford car boot’ photograph from We English as his ‘Picture of the Year’ in an article published in today’s Sunday Telegraph.

Parr writes: “This image from Simon Roberts’s book We English is a modern classic. Roberts toured the country looking for view of leisure activities. By taking up an elevated position, all elements of the classic car boot are revealed, from the container and inflatable racetrack in the background to the layers of people and cars in the front. This sort of domestic recycling is a relatively recent phenomena, but it’s now an essential part of modern life.”


December 12th, 2009 admin

We English features in a roundup of the year’s best photography books in today’s Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

New York art critic Richard B. Woodward writes in the Wall Street Journal: “Most of us experience nature along pathways and shorelines trodden for decades, if not centuries. This rueful truth is known in the bones of the English, who have pieced and parceled their half of an island since the Bronze Age. Simon Roberts gently mocks his compatriots as they search for weekend inspiration in these well-groomed landscapes, even as he reminds us why such lovely places were, and still could be, wellsprings for poetry.”


While Prudence Hone writes in The Guardian: “[Massimo] Vitali might recognise something of his style in We English by Simon Roberts (Chris Boot, £35); from the Camel estuary to Kirkby Lonsdale, the dreamy panoramas, with their sweeping skies and miniature figures, are a lyrical reminder of the beauty of the countryside. There is a tranquility and charm in these documentary shots which is in stark contrast to the up-the-nostril, harshly lit studies in Luxury by Roberts’s stablemate Martin Parr (Chris Boot, £25).”

Guardian christmas books blog


November 25th, 2009 admin

I have a new exhibition of We English opening at South Hill Park in Bracknell this weekend. The opening reception is on Saturday 28th from 1.00-3.oopm.

Also exhibited is Observations on a Town by Janet Curley Cannon (details here) and work by the Brackell Camera Club who have collaborated on a project about Britishness (details here).

Start Time: Saturday, November 28, 2009
End Time:Sunday, January 24, 2010
Location: South Hill Park Arts Centre (Mirror Gallery & Atrium)
Street: Ringmead
Town: Bracknell, United Kingdom

Picture 1


November 19th, 2009 admin

I’m going to be in Paris this Friday and Saturday for Paris Photo. The Photographers’ Gallery are exhibiting some We English prints (see them on stand B25) and I’ll be doing a book signing on the Schaden book stand (C 10) on Friday at 4pm. Hope to see some of you there.

Picture 2


November 16th, 2009 admin

Thanks to all of you who entered the Flak Photo/ We English book giveaway.

Congratulations to the three winners-

Martin Buday

Rachel Wolfe

Sarah Patel

See more great photography on Flak Photo here.

Picture 1

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