The picturesque, a particularly English concept, evolved during the 18th century – evoking both the soft, gentle curves of the pastoral and pre-empting the pantheism of the Romantics.
Simon Roberts travelled throughout England in a motorhome in search of the quintessentially English. Roberts’s apparatus of choice for the series We English was a 5 x 4 large format camera
Roberts’s photographs reside somewhere between documentary and pure landscape. Many of his images contain poignant vignettes set against dynamic panoramas. Camel Estuary is populated with staffage straining against one another. Their interaction enlivens the scene, while the tamed sea, blue sky and sweeping shore evoke the English tradition of land, leisure and pleasure.
A contemporary archive of Englishness; Roberts’s work captures people, places and events beautifully. Figures in the landscape are small, but significant – the Arcadian shepherds and smiling rural folk of a Victorian landscape are replaced by windswept trekkers, crowded stadiums and post-modern reverie.
South Downs Way, West Sussex, 2007, © Simon Roberts.
Amerta Movement Workshop, Avenbury Henge, Wiltshire, 2008, © Simon Roberts.
Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall, 2007, © Simon Roberts.