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Abstract           The  producers  of  Simon  Roberts’  photographic  project  We  English  (2009)  make   substantial  claims  about  its  status  and  achievements  within  the  context  of  British   documentary   photography.   The   documentary   photography   genre   enjoys   popularity   but   often   its   proponents   conveniently   overlook   pressing   issues   around  its  practice  and  use.  Reputation  it  seems  has  come  before  integrity,  but   perhaps  this  is  not  the  case.    Looking  past  the  gloss  of  high  production  values  and   the  seductive  and  serious  nature  of  the  large  format  camera  image,  We  English,   as   a   legitimate   representation   of   the   English   people,   is   contested   through   application  of  photography  theory  and  image  analysis.     John  Tagg’s  theory  of  how  visual  representations  contribute  to  constructing  and   reaffirming  our  sense  of  identity  is  applied,  whilst  the  review  is  also  mindful  of   Allan   Sekula’s   proposal   that   documentary   photographers   detangle   themselves   from  the  authoritarian,  bureaucratic  and  positivist  aspects  of  the  genre.     Finally,   a   brief   discussion   of   nationalism   allows   for   a   development   in   the   interpretation   of   the   work.     In   conclusion,   it   remains   to   be   seen   whether   the   claims   of   the   producers   will   outlast   the   initial   marketing   and   promotional   activities.                

 

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Contents                       Abstract  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1  

Contents  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2  

Illustrations  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3  

Acknowledgements  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4  

Introduction    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter  1      

Photography;  use  and  function    

 

 

 

 

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Chapter  2    

Thinking  about  The  Images  

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter  3        

Nationalist  Tendencies    

 

 

 

 

 

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36  

 

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In  Conclusion    

 

 

 

Appendices       1.  Brief  Interview  with  Simon  Roberts  7th  January  2010    

 

2.  About  We  English,  Blog  post  by  Roberts  dated  1st  April  2008    

Bibliography    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illustrations    

              (Cover  image;  select  images  from  We  English,  2009)     Figure  1.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Derwent  Water,  Keswick,  Cumbria,  27th  August  2008    

Figure  2.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Camel  Estuary,  Padstow,  Cornwall,  27th  September  2007   13  

Figure  3.    

Simon  Roberts  2009  Dunstanburgh  Castle,  Embleton,  Northumberland,  3rd   September  2008  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure  4.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Keynes  Country  Park  Beach,  Shornecote,  Gloucestershire,  

 

11th  May  2008  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure  5.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Mad  Maldon  Mud  Race,  River  Blackwater,  Maldon,  

 

Essex,  30th  December  2007  

 

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Figure  6.    

clivejharris  2008,  flickr,  Spectators,  Mad  Maldon  Mud  Race    

 

 

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Figure  7.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Southdowns  Way,  West  Sussex,  8th  October  2007  

 

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Figure  8.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  The  Haxey  Hood,  Haxey,  North  Lincolnshire,  5th  January  

 

2008    

Figure  9.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Devils  Dyke,  South  Downs,  East  Sussex,  6th  March  2008  

Figure  10.     John  Hinde  Studios  postcard  images   Figure  11.    

 

 

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13  

 

 

 

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Simon  Roberts  2009,  Malvern  Hills,  Worcestershire,  17th  May  2008  

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Figure  12.     Simon  Roberts  2009,  South  East  Hertfordshire  Bird-­‐Watchers,  Holkham,    

 

Norfolk,  17th  February  2008  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Figure  13.     Simon  Roberts  2009,  West  Wittering  beach,  Chichester,  West  Sussex,  3rd  May    

 

Figure  14.    

2008    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Salcombe  Sands,  Devon,  23rd  May  2008  

 

 

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Figure  15.     Simon  Roberts  2009,  Ladies’  day,  Aintree  Racecourse,  Merseyside,  4th  April    

 

2008    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Figure  16.     Cover  image,  We  English  (2009)    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Figure  17.  

John  Kippin  1995,  Prayer  Meeting,  Windermere  

Figure  18.    

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Paul  Herrington’s  50th  Birthday,  Grantcester,  

 

Cambridgeshire  ,  15th  June  2008    

 

Figure  19.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon  Roberts  2009,  Stanage  Edge,  Hathersage,  Derbyshire,  3rd  August  2008  

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Acknowledgements         I  would  like  to  thank  Simon  Roberts  for  answering  my  questions  and  supplying   images.  I  would  also  like  to  thank  members  of  Northbrook  College  who  assisted   me  with  research  and  for  their  general  support  and  encouragement.  Respect  of   course  to  all  those  individuals  who  commit  thoughts  to  paper  and  to  those  who   disseminate  the  work  of  others.  Most  of  all  thanks  to  Jenny  Baldwin  for  diverting   my  attention  away  from  images  and  teaching  me  to  read  and  write.  

                                                           

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Introduction                                             Simon  Roberts’  recent  work  We  English  (2009)  is  characteristic  of  contemporary   large  format  photography  practice  as  well  as  being  overt,  in  subject  if  not  style,  in   its   adherence   to   the   developing   tradition   of   recent   'major'   works   by   British   photographers   who   take   it   as   their   quest   to   explore   notions   of   national   and   personal   identity.   Roberts’   publisher   Chris   Boot   is   quoted   as   saying   that   We   English   is   the   most   significant   contribution   to   the   photography   of   England   in   recent  years1.     We  English  comprises  56  colour  photographs  and  is  presented  officially  in  three   formats.   My   first   encounter   with   We   English   was   through   the   Internet,   in   the   form   of   the   photographer’s   blog2   and   portfolio   website.   Roberts'   project   was   unusually  made  public  before  its  completion  with  the  launch  of  the  blog  site,  to   which  regular  posts  were  made  that  supported  and  reported  on  the  development   of  the  work  between  2007  and  its  publication  in  September  2009.       We   English   is   a   concentrated   study   of   people   at   leisure   in   the   English   Landscape,                                                                                                                   1  http://we-­‐english.co.uk/   2  http://we-­‐english.co.uk/blog/  

 

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a   collection   of   landscape   photographs   depicting   leisure   activities   of,   one   assumes,  English  citizens.  Photographers,  like  Simon  Roberts,  who  claim  greater   seriousness   for   their   photographs   than   amateur   photographers   do,   manifest   their   differences   from   popular   and   formulaic   tourist   imagery   by   producing   a   monograph  and  exhibition  for  a  broader  audience.  Roberts  is  no  exception  in  this   case.  The  work  then  is  found  by  the  Internet  photographic  community3  and  those   vicarious  consumers  of  high  culture,  the  gallery  audience.       Simon   Roberts’   stance   as   serious,   although   uncritical,   photographer   remains   within  the  hierarchy  of  tourism  in  which  trippers  scarcely  see  at  all,  tourists  only   glance   in   order   to   find   reassurance,   and   travellers   practise   a   long,   reflective   gaze   across   the   too   tranquil   interval   of   English   Landscape   tradition   (Taylor,   1994).   Although   Roberts   separates   himself   from   normal   tourist   imagery,   both   by   the   equipment   he   uses   and   the   rigorous   and   contrived   style   of   his   images,   he   does   not   separate   himself   from   the   reassuring   imagery   of   typical   tourist   behaviours   and  haunts.  In  his  search  for  'English'  values  he  harnesses  a  specific  modality  of   leisure   behaviour,   which   is   dictated   by   space,   and   constantly   repeated   across   spaces  around  the  country.     Looking  at  the  official  book  published  by  Chris  Boot  is  a  very  different  experience   from   looking   at   the   images   on   the   Internet   and   in   the   gallery.   The   book   is   in   keeping   with   Boot’s   standards   and   is   well   printed   and   simply   designed.   But,   to   ignore   this   attempted   seduction   by   production   values   and   concentrate   on   the   photographs  as  a  collection  that  represents  the  aim  of  the  producers  is  the  task   in   hand.   The   context   of   the   book,   within   relation   to   other   photo   books,   as   judged   by   its   production   qualities,   is   not   of   interest   here   save   to   say   that   the   high   production  values  of  the  book  emphasise  the  seriousness  and  proposed  value  of   the   project   as   a   whole.   It   is   worth   mentioning   the   power   that   high   production   values  have  in  convincing  an  audience  that  a  work  has  a  legitimate  purpose  and  a   consequent  value.                                                                                                                       3   Roberts’   work   has   a   presence   on   the   popular   photo   sharing   website   flickr   and   has   been   promoted   through  

more  specialist  online  photography  blog  and  magazine  sites  such  as  foto8  and  Lensculture.  

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Considered   away   from   the   high   standards   of   their   presentation   and   in   the   context  of  contemporary  photographic  discourse,  the  images  themselves  and  the   'body  of  work'  become  open  to  criticism.  Roberts’  self  appointment  to  the  task  of   extending   a   long   tradition   of   acclaimed,   critically   or   otherwise,   British   social   documentary   photography   is   suggestive   toward   his   personal   ambitions   and   speaks   clearly   of   his   aims   as   a   careerist   photographer,   one   who   desires   recognition   and   is   prepared   to   deploy   a   strategy   to   achieve   it.   His   marketing   strategies4   and   the   touring   nature   of   the   project   work   together   to   create   an   instant   geographically   broad,   but   relatively   narrow,   national   audience.   Roberts   proposes   a   distinction   on   the   basis   of   nationality   (the   English),   but   chooses   a   style   that   emanates   from   recent   fashions   in   European   photography5   and   influences  from  the  canon  of  European  painters;  he  is  prepared  to  represent  the   English  under  hefty  European  influence.       John   Taylor   notes   in   A   Dream   of   England   (1994)   that   documentary   is   not   disruptive   of   social   norms,   on   the   contrary   it   confirms   them   (Taylor,   1994).   Subsequently   Roberts’   work   pays   heed   to   the   notion   that   England's   strength   is   its  unity  in  difference  by  offering  a  typology  of  human  recreation  that  illustrates   a  pseudo  diversity  of  activity  and  topography.   We  English  joins  the  convention  of   comforting   diversity   with   the   convention   of   recording   current   events   in   the   established   documentary   mode.   In   chapter   1   I   aim   to   briefly   discuss   the   genre   of   documentary   photography   in   reference   to   Allan   Sekula   and   John   Tagg   and   to   involve  We  English  in  the  discussion  through  equally  brief  image  analysis.     The  scope  of  the  project  as  suggested  by  the  title  is  limited  to  England  and  is  a   study   of   collective   behaviour.   The   notion   of   the   collective   denies   the   significance   of   the   individual,   instead   placing   importance   on   the   idea   of   shared   behaviour.   This   shared   behaviour   unites   individuals   and   supports   the   suggestion   of   a                                                                                                                   4  The  project  was  supported  by  (but  not  solely)  and  promoted  through  the  broadsheet  press  (The  Times)  the  

context   of   which   it   could   be   argued   informed   the   nature   of   the   project.   Roberts   has   significant   career   experience   in   producing   photo   stories   for   broadsheet   supplement   magazines,   such   magazines   being   a   context  within  which  Roberts  has  an  established  reputation  and  is  comfortable  working.     5   The   Americans   Stephen   Shore   and   Joel   Sternfeld   are   also   named   as   influential   in   general,   but   this   is   not   so   apparent   as   the   obvious   influence   of   the   Dutch  painter  Hendrik  Avercamp   and   the   contemporary   European   style  of  photographers  such  as  Peter  Bialobrzeski  and  Massimo  Vitali,  both  of  whose  work  offers  a  similar   approach  in  subject  and  style,  in  the  We  English  photographs.    

 

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distinct   national   identity   and   consequently   representations   thereof.   A   study   or   investigation  of  unique  behaviours,  however,  would  challenge  the  simplistic  idea   that   a   shared   repertoire   of   actions   binds   individuals   sufficiently   in   order   to   create   a   distinctive   national   identity   present   in   the   individuals   of   a   society.   Roberts  claims  that  his  work  does  not  define  the  English,  but  represent  them.  In   chapter  2  I  will  aim  to  query  the  representation  through  further  image  analysis   and  discussion.     Looking   at   the   English   landscape   as   a   porthole   to   the   past   and   as   a   source   for   patriotic   reaffirmation   is   a   familiar   plight   and   one   advocated   by   Roberts   in   We   English.   The   desire   to   discover   the   present   through   looking   at   the   past,   by   decoding   the   landscape,   seems   to   Roberts   to   be   an   appropriate   model   to   potentially   yield   a   favourable   result   to   his   investigation.   In   chapter   3   I   aim   to   consider   the   ideas   of   nationalism   of   which   We   English   prompts   examination   in   order  to  highlight  problematic  areas  in  the  work.                                           8  

 


Chapter  1      

Photography;  use  and  function  

                                      The  work,  by  the  artist's  own  declaration,  exists  as  an  extension  of  the  legacy  of   canonical   photographic   studies   of   the   British   public   by   British   photographers,   and  therefore  places  itself  within  a  specific  discourse.  The  notion  of  discourse  is   a   notion   of   limits,   of   boundaries   that   provide   the   very   possibility   for   meaning.   Any  search  for  meaning  is  inescapably  subject  to  cultural  definition,  and  in  this   respect  photographs  are  not  unique.  To  talk  about  the  work  in  question  with  any   worthwhile   purpose   it   will   be   necessary   to   locate   in   the   work   significant   problematic   areas   for   investigation   and   discussion   within   the   photographic   discourse.   This   discourse   here   provides   the   context   of   the   meaning   of   this   investigation  and  determines  its  subsequent  outcome.  Here  I  will  briefly  outline   the  concept  of  social  documentary  photography,  referring  to  John  Tagg  and  Allen   Sekula   to   shed   some   light   on   its   use   and   function   in   order   to   lay   a   foundation   for   further  inquiry.        In   his   article   Dismantling   Modernism,   Reinventing   Documentary   (Notes   on   the   Politics   of   Representation)   (1978)   Allan   Sekula   suggests   that   documentary  

 

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photography6   has   contributed   much   to   spectacle,   to   voyeurism,   to   retinal   excitation,   to   terror,   envy   and   nostalgia   and   only   a   little   to   the   critical   understanding   of   the   social   world.   Sekula   also   proposes   a   fundamental   break   from   idealist   aesthetics   and   argues   to   understand   the   extent   to   which   art   redeems   a   repressive   social   order7   by   offering   a   wholly   imaginable   transcendence,  a  false  harmony,  to  docile  and  isolated  spectators.       Sekula's   big   question   is;   how   do   we   detangle   ourselves   from   the   authoritarian   and   bureaucratic   aspects   of   the   documentary   genre,   from   its   implicit   positivism?   Roberts’  work  is  somewhat  free  of  the  authoritarian  and  bureaucratic  aspects  of   the   genre   in   that   his   is   a   personal   vision8,   however   the   representation   is   enacted   on  his  authority  and  remains  tied  to  positivism.       Documentary  photographers,  in  the  traditional  sense,  photograph  the  ‘real’  with   the  intention  of  delivering  an  accurate  and  authentic  view  of  the  world.  Ideas  of   construction   and   interference,   of   setting   up   a   scene,   negate   this   apparent   authenticity   and   are   thus   excluded   from   the   practice   on   this   basis   alone.   In   the   practice   of   documentary   photography   authenticity   and   its   counterpart   spontaneity9  have  become  indicators  of  truth.  We  English  uses  this  technique  of   photographing   the  ‘real’   in   order   to   secure   a   view   of   the   English   at   leisure   that   is   authentic  and  unquestionable.       According   to   the   idea   of   photographic   realism,   it   is   believed   that   photographs   reproduce  the  visible  world  independent  of  human  influence,  that  the  camera  is   a  bearer  of  fact.  Therefore,  the  rhetorical  strength  of  documentary  photography   is   imagined   to   reside   in   the   unequivocal   character   of   the   camera's   evidence   (Sekula,  1978).  But  the  naturalness  of  the  world  as  it  appears  in  photographs  is  a                                                                                                                   6    As  exemplified  by  the  likes  of  the  Magnum  Agency.   7   Although   Roberts   does   not   seek   to   ‘redeem   a   repressive   social   order’   the   document   he   has   produced  

certainly  offers  a  harmonious  view  of  English  people  in  the  equally  harmonious  English  landscape  and  for   the   most   part   fails   to   address   current   issues   around   identity   in   relation   to   landscape,   immigration   and   nationalism,  which  make  it  typical  of  the  work  Sekula  is  talking  about  in  his  article.   8   Documentary   is   thought   to   be   art   when   it   transcends   its   reference   to   the   world,   when   the   work   can   be   regarded  first  and  foremost  as  an  act  of  self  expression  on  the  part  of  the  artist  (Sekula  1978).   9   Photographing   a   subject   without   their   knowledge   of   the   moment   of   exposure,   that   is   to   say  spontaneously,   is  favourable  as  it  refuses  the  subject  the  opportunity  to  react  to  the  camera.  It  supports  the  authenticity  of   the  resulting  image,  i.e.  that  it  is  true  to  life,  that  a  natural  state  is  a  truthful  state.      

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deceit.   The   only   objective   truth   a   photograph   offers   is   the   assertion   that   somebody   or   something   was   somewhere   and   took   a   picture.   Everything   else,   everything  beyond  the  imprinting  of  a  trace,  is  up  for  grabs  (Sekula,  1978).  What   this   means   is   that   meaning   is   always   negotiable   and   dependent   on   context,   i.e.   that  it  is  not  fixed.  Likewise  the  use  of  the  photographic  image  is  not  stable,  but   subject   to   distribution   between   discourses10.   Objects   presented   to   the   camera   are   already   in   use   in   the   production   of   meanings   and   as   Sekula   points   out;   a   photograph   far   from   speaking   for   itself   is   always   spoken   for.     By   this   Sekula   means   that   it   is   impossible   to   even   conceive   of   an   actual   photograph   in   a   free   state,  unattached  to  a  system  of  validation  and  support.     Every   photograph,   however,   is   characterized   by   a   tendentious   rhetoric.   This   means  that  all  photographs  intend  to  promote  a  particular  point  of  view  or  cause   through   deliberate   compositions   of   subjects/objects,   but   that   these   new   combinations   of   subjects/objects,   this   new   rhetoric   is   only   readable   in   the   context   of   cultural   relationships   already   in   existence   and   know   (Sekula,   1978).   This   familiarity   exists,   particularly   in   documentary,   because   photographs   seem   to   reproduce   that   which   we   see,   or   might   see11.   John   Tagg’s   discussion   in   The   Currency   of   the   Photograph   (1978),   of   what   he   calls   ‘double   movement   in   ideological  discourse’  offers  a  theory  of  how  visual  representations  contribute  to   constructing   and   reaffirming   our   sense   of   identity,   a   theory   that   is   certainly   of   relevance   to   Roberts’   work12.   By   photographing   the   ‘real’   in   the   accepted   documentary   manner   the   photographs   themselves   promote   and   become   examples  of  the  ideological  assumption  of  a  natural  order  or  state  of  existence.   They  are  then  accepted  as  evidence  of  this  state  and  at  the  same  time  reinforce  it,  

                                                                                                                10   Roberts   suggests   that   We   English   the   book   is   now   a   historical   document   charting   English   leisure   pursuits   and  landscape  conditions  of  2007-­‐2008,  that  each  image  away  from  the  collection  works  as  a  stand  alone   work   of   art,   and   that   all   exist   as   part   of   an   extended   visual   anthropological   study   (see   Appendix   1).   This   convenient   diversity   of   application   is   characteristic   of   the   genre,   and   of   photography   in   general.   As   the   photographs   move   through   these   different   systems   of   validation   and   support   so   the   possibility   for   new   readings  occurs.   11   The   key   characteristic   of   photography   that   allows   ideas   of   realism   and   truth   to   persist   is   found   in   its   dependence  on  the  physical  object  present  at  the  moment  of  exposure.   12  Particularly  as  an  explanation  to  the  difficulty  of  engaging  critically  with  the  content  of  the  images  in  We   English.  

 

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ultimately  subduing  the  inclination  to  challenge  what  is  seen13.     Applying   ‘double   movement’   to   We   English   reveals   how   amiability   and   cooperation   are   insistently   stressed   throughout   the   representation,   as   is   the   diversity   of   activity   and   topography.   From   this   pluralism   emerges   a   unity   that   hints  at  a  shared  nature,  that  this  diversity  is  only  formal  and  does  not  belie  the   existence  of  a  common  mould  that  we  can  call  English.    

  Figure  1.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Derwent  Water,  Keswick,  Cumbria,  27th  August  2008    

Explicit   examples   of   this   amiability   are   seen   in   the   images   Derwent   Water,   Keswick,  Cumbria,  27thAugust  2008  (Fig.  1)  and  Camel  Estuary,  Padstow,  Cornwall,   27th  September  2007  (Fig.  2)  where  landscape  users  are  seen  acknowledging  each    

                                                                                                                13   The   best   example   of   this   phenomenon   that   I   can   locate   (other   than   the   work   in   question)   is   the   1955   exhibition  at  MOMA  in  New  York  The  Family  of  Man,  curated  by  Edward  Stiechen.  The  exhibition  used  this   technique  to  convince,  indeed  evidence,  and  show  unquestionably  the  nature  of  man.  Consider  any  spread   of  the  catalogue;  all  contain  multiple  images  from  varying  cultures  and  historic  times  showing  the  same  or   similar  gestural  activities.  The  strength  of  these  gestural  activities  and  the  ideological  structures  to  which   they   testify   (e.g.   motherly   love,   work,   family,   friendship   etc.)   overwhelms   the   historical   contexts   of   the   images  to  the  point  where  they  are  removed  from  history  and  it  becomes  difficult  to  question  or  account  for   their  very  differences.  

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Figure  2.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Camel  Estuary,  Padstow,  Cornwall,  27th  September  2007    

  Figure  3.  Simon  Roberts  2009  Dunstanburgh  Castle,  Embleton,  Northumberland,  3rd  September   2008  

 

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Figure  4.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Keynes  Country  Park  Beach,  Shornecote,  Glouestershire,  11th  May   2008    

other,  momentarily  enjoying  a  mutual  recognition  of  themselves  in  the  other.   The   images   Dunstanburgh   Castle,   Embleton,   Northumberland,   3rd   September   2008   (Fig.  3)  and  Keynes  Country  Park  Beach,  Shornecote,  Glouestershire,  11th  May  2008   (Fig.   4)   in   particular   evidence   a   collective   knowledge   of   how   the   landscape   should   be   used   and   reaffirm   the   cooperative   behaviour   that   is   essential   in   the   proposal  of  a  common  mould.     Considering   We   English   as   a   collection   of   images   it   seems   that   limitations14,   repetition  and  Roberts’  choice  of  high  fidelity  recording  equipment  work  to  instil   the  ‘unequivocal  character  of  the  camera’s  evidence’  further.                                                                                                                         14  By  embracing  limitations,  often  self  imposed  ones,  documentary  photographers  create  the  possibility  for  

their  images  to  fit  within  a  concrete  discourse  situation  and  therefore  to  yield  a  clear  semantic  outcome.  In   the  case  of  We  English  there  are  several  distinct  discourse  situations  within  which  the  images  can  operate,   but  this  is  neither  unique  to  the  collection  nor  unfamiliar  to  photographic  images  in  general.   14  

 


Chapter  2       Thinking  about  The  Images                                         In   so   far   as   visual   representations   work   as   Tagg   suggests,   through   double   movement,   the   familiarity   and   the   apparent   realism   of   the   photographic   image   render  it  a  particularly  powerful  force.  Roberts’  desire  to  harness  the  power  of   photography’s   discursive   nature,   to   make   photographs   that   encourage   the   viewer   to   decode   the   landscape   in   order   to   ‘amplify   and   extend   meaning’   (see   Appendix   2,   paragraph   7),   is   particularly   well   demonstrated   in   the   photograph   Mad  Maldon   Mud   Race,   River   Blackwater,  Maldon,  Essex,  30th  December  2007   (Fig.   5).   It   might   be   of   interest   to   consider   this   particular   photograph   psychoanalytically15.   The   presence   of   the   Thistle,   aground   in   the   Blackwater                                                                                                                   15   Roberts   own   analysis   of   the   picture   focuses   on   what   he   sees   present   in   the   image.   He   talks   in   an   objective  

and   ultimately   positive   manner   about   what   the   image   denotes   as   well   as   gently   touching   upon   what   it   connotes.  An  extension/development  of  this  approach  follows;     As   a   picture   it   is   intentionally   picturesque.   Its   graphic   quality   is   in   its   composition;   the   placement   of   the   foreground   mooring   ropes   and   buoy,   in   the   mid   ground   the   anchor,   anchor   chain   and   forestays   and   the   receding   perspective   offered   by   the   race   participants   to   the   small   but   not   insignificant   detail   of   the   landscape  beyond.     The  forestays  and  anchor  chain  give  prominence  to  the  seemingly  stylised  naval  anchor  rooted  below  the   centre  point  of  the  image,  which  in  turn  invokes  Britain’s  complex  Naval  History.  The  Royal  Navy  have  been   promoted  as  the  bulwark  against  social  breakdown  and  the  advocates  of  centuries  of  global  scientific  and   geographic  survey  (under   Francis   Drake   were   responsible   for   the   first   English   slave  trading  expeditions  and   through  James  Cook  expanded  knowledge  of  the  southern  hemisphere.  I  am  reminded  of  the  diaries  of  Samuel   Pepys,  the  English  Naval  Administrator,  written  during  the  English  Restoration  period  and  his  accounts  of  the   now   infamous   events   of   that   era).   In   the   background   again   at   the   centre   of   the   image   can   be   made   out   a   Redrow   housing   development   project   and   to   the   left   of   that   what   looks   like   industrial   or   perhaps   large  

 

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River  at  low  tide,  may  loosely  point  toward  Maldon's  past,  of  the  Battle  of  Maldon   between   the   Vikings   and   the   Anglo   Saxons   in   991   AD   and   to   the   Roman   occupation  before  it  and  certainly  to  a  maritime  past.  

  Figure  5.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Mad  Maldon  Mud  Race,  River  Blackwater,  Maldon,  Essex,  30th   December  2007    

                                                                                                                agricultural  buildings  and  land.  So  there  exists  evidently  several  examples  of  land  use  that  imply  past  and   present,   but   that   also   represent   acquisition   and   influence.   The   new   houses,   although   it   could   be   argued   that   buildings   of   this   type   by   companies   such   as   Redrow   (who   ultimately   rely   on   marketing   techniques   that   promote  family  ideology  and  the  benefits  of  rural  living;  from  the  Redow  Website  promotion  text;  'The  Lakes   offers  you  the  best  of  both  worlds,  combining  the  peaceful  living  of  a  delightful  rural  waterside  location  with   easy  rail  links  for  commuting  to  London  and  the  South  East.  These  delightful  3,4  and  5  bedroom  homes  lie  on   the  outskirts  of  Maldon,  with  high  quality  shopping,  dining  and  leisure  facilities  close-­by,  while  the  nearby  town   of   Chelmsford   offers   an   even   wider   choice   of   retail   and   culture.)   are   outside   the   categorisation   of   architecture   appear   to   draw   on   the   Dutch   Colonial   style   with   their   brick   and   shiplap   clad   frontages   offering   a   clear   identity  heritage  and  style  to  their  potential  occupants.  The  race  itself  has  moved  from  the  hands  of  its  local   creators   into   the   hands   of   an   international   institution;   the   Rotary   and   Lions   Club   (the   Rotary   Club,   aka   Rotary   International,   is   an   organisation   of   service   clubs   open   to   all.   It   has   32,000   clubs   on   its   books   and   1.2   million   members   worldwide.   The   stated   purpose   of   the   club   is   to   bring   together   business   and   professional   leaders  to  provide  humanitarian  service,  encourage  high  ethical  standards  in  all  vocations  and  help  build  good   will  and  peace  in  the  world.  Only  since  1980  have  women  been  allowed  membership   to  the  Rotary  Clubs).  Any   proposal  that  what  we  see  is  exclusively  English,  that  is  to  say  free  from  outside  influence,  is  untenable.  This   image  in  particular  whilst  its  seems  to  evidence  the  English  propensity  for  eccentric  annual  tradition  really   is  suggesting  something  else;  that  any  notion  of  a  modern  Englishness  is  not  born  on  our  shores  but  made   through   a   roaming   and   explorative   historic   global   presence   and   an   altogether   more   subtle   contemporary   international  influence.    

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The   mud   race   was   first   started   in   the   1970s   by   the   regular   drinkers   of   The   Queens   Head   and   by   its   third   year   it   was   a   large   well   organised   and   well   attended  public  event.  Ever  popular,  the  race  is  watched  by  hundreds  of  people   (see  Fig.  6),  people  curiously  missing  from  Roberts’  picture.    

  Figure  6.  clivejharris  2008,  flickr,  Spectators,  Mad  Maldon  Mud  Race    

  In  Roberts’  image  (Fig.  5)  there  is  no  indication  that  the  view  is  being  shared  by   hundreds   of   spectators,   and   equally   photographed   by   hundreds   of   cameras.   Satisfaction   for   Roberts   is   found   in   the   decision   not   to   share   the   view   (i.e.   to   picture  the  observing  crowds),  but  to  possess  it;  to  present  it  as  exclusively  the   view  of  the  photographer  and  therefore  of  the  viewer  of  the  photograph.  Thus  in   terms   of   representation   the   scene   remains   incomplete   having   instead   been   invested  with  visual  pleasure;  the  pleasure  of  composition.  Composition  here  is   the   organisation   of   the   view   within   the   photographic   frame16,   which   in   Freudian   psychoanalysis   is   a   manifestation   of   the   ego's   desire   in   the   organisation   and   control   of   the   imaginary   self.   The   ego   then   derives   pleasure   from   organising   and   containing   the   view   (understanding)   and   from   excluding   it   from   others                                                                                                                   16  

The   exclusion   or   inclusion   of   ‘details’;   the   manifesting   of   the   selection   process   afforded   to   the   photographer.  

 

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(possession),   which   is   analogous   to   the   pleasure   derived   from   organising   the   self.  David  Bate17  puts  it  simply;       'The   organisation   of   the   picture   is   identified   with   a   corresponding   internalised   sense   of   satisfaction   of   the   ego   in   the   human   subject:   ‘I   have   finally   organised   everything  into  a  unity,  it  is  all  in  the  right  place.’’  (Bate,  2009).       We   English   has   a   number   of   aspects   familiar   from   the   photographer’s   previous   work   Motherland,   but   on   the   whole   the   differences   are   more   significant18.   Motherland   is   the   photographic   outcome   of   Roberts’   year   long   trip   across   Russia   in   2004-­‐2005,   a   study   aiming   to   reveal   a   sense   of   common   identity   in   the   situation   of   'major   geo-­‐political,   economic   and   social   change'   (Roberts,   2007).   Roberts’  intentions  for  We  English  are  inline  with  his  intentions  for  Motherland   in   that   both   studies   exist   to   furnish   feelings   of   optimism   and   beauty   and   to   counter,   particularly   in   the   case   of   Motherland,   recent   photographic   representations   of   the   respective   cultures   that   adopt   a   critical   stance.   This   position  would  seem  to  dictate  that  the  work  would  then  be  compliant  with  the   dominant  social  order.       For   We   English,   Roberts,   perhaps   as   an   act   of   heroism,   wanted   to   make   'unashamedly   beautiful   images'19.   The   modern   notion   that   beauty   in   art   is   something  to  be  ashamed  of  stems  from  its  passage  through  avant-­‐garde  thought   and   practice   in   the   early   part   of   the   20th   century.   The   avant-­‐gardists   however   were   not   ashamed   of   beauty   but   rather   saw   it   as   the   manifestation   of   ideas,   ideologies,   social   practices   and   cultural   hierarchies.   Beauty   stands   in   for   these   conceptual  frame  works  so  that  when  beauty  is  contested  it  is  not  the  object  that   comes   in   for   critique   but   rather   the   ideas   and   ideologies   that   allow   for   the   assumption   of   beauty.   Generally   speaking   historically,   and   prior   to   the                                                                                                                   17   'Photographic   representations   show   that   representation   can   intervene   in   a   spectators   belief   in   reality,  

that   seeing   equals   truth   but   only   where   the   spectator   has   an   investment'.   (Bate,   2009).   Bate   also   notes   Lacan's   proposal   that   looking   can   be   invested   with   jealousy.   Roberts’   motivation   for   the   project   in   part   was   the  sense  of  unity  and  attachment  to  the  motherland  apparently  exhibited  by  the  Russians  he  encountered   whilst  collecting  images  for  his  book  Motherland  and  his  desire  to  replicate  this  for  the  English.     18  In  particular  Roberts’  position  as  insider  in  contrast  to  being  and  outsider  in  Russia.   19  Photographers’  Gallery  Seminar,  30th  September  2009.  No  need  to  mention  the  propensity  for  ‘beautiful’   imagery  to  be  clichéd  and  trite.  

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challenges   made   to   both   beauty   and   art   by   the   avant-­‐garde   artists   of   the   20th   century,   beauty   and   art   were   implicated   in   a   complex   relationship   where   beauty   was  the  principle  of  art,  and  art  beauty's  highest  calling  (Beech,  2009).       The  resistance  to  beauty  is  generally  a  resistance  to  bourgeois  culture  and  thus  a   characteristic  of  those  individuals  suspicious  of  culturally  and  socially  dominant   ideas   and   practices.   The   Dadaists   and   Surrealists   could   not   have   disrupted   the   ideals  of  high  society  individuals  if  they  had  substantiated  their  differences  in  a   manner  that  was  not  in  opposition  to  the  style  and  taste  of  the  bourgeoisie.       Roberts’  nostalgia  for  old  aesthetics  is  evidence  of  his  complicity  with  dominant   ideas.  The  avant-­‐gardists  have  revealed  that  if  you  put  beauty  into  art  then  the   dominant  ideas  in  society  are  given  their  privilege.  Beauty  also  exerts  a  kind  of   endorsement   for   certain   cultural   authorities   and   social   practices.   On   several   occasions  in  We  English20  the  English  countryside  in  its  diversity  is  presented  as   openly  picturesque  and,  in  anthropocentric  perception,  beautiful  with  no  hint  at   the   impossibility   of   its   being   coherent,   defined,   or   positive   (Taylor,   1994).   In   the   case   of   the   images   mentioned   here,   in   particular   Southdowns   Way,   West   Sussex,   8th  October  2007  (Fig.  7),  The  Haxey  Hood,  Haxey,  North  Lincolnshire,  5th  January   2008  (Fig.  8)  and  Devils  Dyke,  South  Downs,  East  Sussex,  6th  March  2008  (Fig.  9),   Roberts   recreates   the   tourist   photograph   that   is   analogue   of   a   beautiful   world.   What   is   seen   here   is   not   an   objective   recording   of   the   real   but   an   ideological   response  that  is  manifest  through  a  highly  contrived  and  selective  process.     Within   this   selection   of   images21   is   the   notable   presence   of   the   Friedrichian   individual22  (see  Fig.  11)  looking  out  into  the  romanticised  landscape  and  with  it                                                                                                                   20  Image  number  followed  by  title  as  it  appears  in  the  book;  

  2.  Camel  Estuary,  Padstow,  Cornwall,  27th  September  2007     3.  Southdowns  Way,  West  Sussex,  8th  October  2007     8.  The  Haxey  Hood,  Haxey,  North  Lincolnshire,  5th  January  2008     13.  Devils  Dyke,  South  Downs,  East  Sussex,  6th  March  2008     14.  Tandridge  Golf  Course,  Oxted,  Surrey,  2nd  April  2008     22.  Malvern  Hills,  Worcestorshire,  17th  May  2008     27.  Grange  Park  Opera,  Northington  Grange,  Hampshire,  4th  June  2008     41.  River  Warfe,  Skipton,  North  Yorkshire,  27th  July  2008     45.  Fountains  Fell,  Yorkshire  Dales,  3rd  August  2008   21  See  footnote  20.   22   (Casper   David   Friedrich)   As   exemplified   in   his   painting   ‘Wander   Above   the   Mists’,   1817-­‐18.   Namely   in   images  14,  22  and  45.  See  footnote  20.  Refer  to  Fig.  11.  

 

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Figure  7.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Southdowns  Way,  West  Sussex,  8th  October  2007    

  Figure  8.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  The  Haxey  Hood,  Haxey,  North  Lincolnshire,  5th  January  2008  

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Figure  9.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Devils  Dyke,  South  Downs,  East  Sussex,  6th  March  2008  

  an   art   historical  reference.   However,   this   familiar   trope   might   equally   have   been   carried   over   from   exposure   to   John   Hinde   Studios’   postcard   images23   from   the   mid  20th  Century  (see  Fig.  10).    

  Figure  10.  John  Hinde  Studios  postcard  images  

  The   extent   of   the   references   to   and   influence   of   painting   on   Roberts’                                                                                                                   23  Roberts’  publisher  Chris  Boot  also  published  a  collection  of  John  Hinde  Studios  postcard  images  (Our  True  

Intent   is   All   for   Your   Delight;   The   John   Hinde   Butlins   Photographs)   in   2002.   Boot   has   also   published   significant   names   such   as   Martin   Parr,   John   Davies   and   Tony   Ray   Jones.   All   prominent   individuals   in   the   photographic  legacy  Roberts  sees  himself  extending.      

 

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photographs   suggests   that   of   itself   photography   does   not   possess   the   value   Roberts   seeks   for   the   work.   Clear   imitation   in   We   English   of   painterly   aesthetics,   particularly   of   the   sixteenth   and   seventeenth   century   Dutch   painters   Pieter   Bruegel   and   Hendrick   Avercamp,   delivers   the   aesthetic   value   that   Roberts   requires   of   the   work,   but   at   the   price   of   institutionalising   his   images   from   the   outset.    

  Figure  11.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Malvern  Hills,  Worcestorshire,  17th  May  2008  

  Dave   Hickey   notes   in   his   essay   Enter   the   Dragon:   On   the   Vernacular   of   Beauty   (1993)  that;       'The  history  of  beauty,  like  all  histories  tells  the  winners  tale;  and  that  tale  is  told   in  the  great  mausoleums  where  images  like  Carravagio's  Madonna  of  the  Rosary,   having   done   their   work   in   the   world,   are   entombed   -­‐   and   where   even   hanging   in   state,   they   provide   us   with   a   ravishing   and   poignant   visual   experience.   One   wonders  however,  whether  our  standards  for  pleasure  of  art  are  well  founded  in   the   glamorous   tristesse   we   feel   in   the   presence   of   these   institutionalised   warhorses,   and   whether   contemporary   images   are   really   enhanced   by   being  

22  

 


institutionalised  in  their  infancy?'  (Hickey,  quoted  in  Beech,  pg.  27).               Hickey   here   asks   an   important   question   that   approaches   the   assumption   that   contemporary  art  must  have  value;  aesthetic  value,  historical  value,  commercial   value   –   exchange   value   (Baudrillard,   1968).   Roberts,   aligned   with   this   value   system,   suggests   that   his   images   reward   the   viewer   who   spends   time   studying   each   picture   (see   Appendix   1).   This   reward   would   seem   to   be   in   the   visual   experience   of   the   work   as   well   as   with   the   knowledge   that   Roberts’   proposed   close   analysis   exercises   and   imparts.   Photography’s   relation   to   painting   is   considered   no   further   than   the   assumption   that   it   is   valuable   because   of   its   relation  and  through  imitation  assumes  some  of  the  credit  thereof.       However,   in   making   the   landscape   his   subject,   in   part   at   least,   Roberts   is   obliged   to   consider   (but   not   necessarily   imitate)   the   precedents   of   landscape   painting   and  indeed  landscape  photography.       In  terms  of  landscape,  the  sea  and  the  horizon  are  often  avoided  on  the  pretext  of   their  visual  monotony.  The  rectilinear  form  of  the  horizon  in  these  environments   intensifies   the   flatness   of   photographs   and   yields   scant   and   in   Roberts’   case   formal  compositions,  inevitably  set  in  three  zones;  the  sky,  the  sea  and  the  land.   In  South  East  Hertfordshire  Bird  Watchers,  Holkham,  Norfolk,  17th  February  2008   (Fig.   12)   the   horizon   and   the   horizontal   edge   of   the   photographic   frame   coincide   to   negate   the   presence   of   the   frame,   to   make   it   invisible   so   to   speak,   which   is   favourable   on   the   grounds   that   the   photograph   aims   to   profess   an   unmediated   access   to   reality24.   In   support   of   photographs   there   exists   an   attitude   that   endorses   seeing   as   a   way   of   understanding   and   indeed   it   is   seeing   which   establishes   our   place   in   the   world.   Such   is   the   privilege   of   sight.   With   this   attitude  it  is  never  the  photograph  that  is  seen,  rather  through  it  is  seen  what  is                                                                                                                     24   This   negation   of   the   presence   of   the   frame   is   applicable   to   the   We   English   images   in   general   (and   to  

Roberts’   positivist   approach   to   photography   on   the   whole)   although   this   particular   composition   seems   to   intensify   the   effect.   Roberts   suggests   that   his   images   are   anthropological   studies   (as   well   as   works   of   art)   which   indicates   that   the   photograph   of   the   thing   is   the   same   as   the   thing   itself,   that   the   same   knowledge   could   be   achieved   through   looking   at   the   photograph   as   could   through   looking   at   the   thing   itself.   On   this   logic   the   photograph   is   as   real   as   the   thing   photographed   and   photographs   deliver   an   unmediated   access   to   reality.  

 

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Figure  12.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  South  East  Hertfordshire  Bird-­‐Watchers,  Holkham,  Norfolk,  17th   February  2008    

  Figure  13.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  West  Wittering  beach,  Chichester,  West  Sussex,  3rd  May  2008  

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represented.  Roberts  delivers  the  landscape  in  this  way  particularly  in  South  East   Hertfordshire  Bird-­Watchers,  Holkham,  Norfolk,  17th  February  2008  (Fig.  12),  West   Wittering   beach,   Chichester,   West   Sussex,   3rd   May   2008   (Fig.   13)   and   Salcombe   Sands,  Devon,  23rd  May  2008  (Fig.14)  as  the  setting  for  leisure  activity,  although   the  dominance  and  coverage  given  over  to  its  enormity  suggest  that  leisure  and   activity  are  insubstantial  and  fleeting  in  the  greater  scheme  of  things.  It  is  easy  to   read  the  composition  as  symbolic  of  Roberts’  wider  political  views,  the  landscape   here  being  empty  and  available  for  unrestricted  personal  freedom.  

  Figure  14.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Salcombe  Sands,  Devon,  23rd  May  2008  

  Another  curiosity  in  the  work  is  the  ubiquity  of  the  elevated  vantage  point.  The   decision   to   use   elevated   points   of   view   almost   exclusively   is   clearly   a   practical   one  assumed  by  Roberts  as  the  solution  to  a  technical  problem  of  how  to  achieve   the  visual  coverage  he  desired.  However,  Roberts  would  be  mistaken  to  assume   that  this  perspective  is  neutral;  in  fact  it  becomes  pertinent  in  the  reading  of  his  

 

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photographs.   At   the   most   basic   level   elevation   is   an   indication   of   power25.   It   follows   that   an   elevated   vantage   point   necessarily   bestows   (the)   power   to   the   holder  of  that  view.  Power  is  then  exercised  through  the  gesture  of  photography;   the  containment  of  the  view  available  for  repetitive  viewing  (and  in  the  case  of   photography,  repetitive  production).  

  Figure  15.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Ladies’  day,  Aintree  Racecourse,  Merseyside,  4th  April  2008  

  Although   the   image   Ladies’   day,   Aintree   Racecourse,   Merseyside,   4th   April   2008   (Fig.   15)   doesn’t   offer   the   elevated   vantage   point,   it   provides   a   convenient   analogy   for   this   simplistic   view   of   the   structure   of   power.   Electing   not   to   photograph   the   event   from   the   privileged   position   of   the   Grandstand26   Roberts   here   finds   himself   looking   up   at   the   physical   tier   structure   whilst   sharing   his   position  with  the  masses,  and  their  detritus,  on  the  ground.  The  privileged  few,   those   who   enjoy   the   farthest   views,   occupy   the   smallest   level,   which,   not   by   coincidence   happens   to   be   at   the   top   of   the   structure.   This   image   is   out   of                                                                                                                   25  Consider  the  hoisting  of  the  winner  onto  the  shoulders  of  supporters,  the  raising  of  a  flag,  the  location  of  

the  penthouse  and  the  position  of  surveillance  cameras.   26  Interestingly  the  stands  at  Aintree  are  named  after  Aristocratic  individuals,  including  the  Queen  Mother,  

Lord  Sefton  and  the  Earl  of  Derby.  

26  

 


keeping   with   many   of   the   other   images   in   that   it   seems   to   be   serving   an   open   critique   of   class   structure   and   class   aspirations.   The   elevated   vantage   point   favoured   by   Roberts   in   many   of   his   pictures   asserts   the   authority   of   his   representation  and  offers  an  apparent  objectivity  through  the  gap  subsequently   sustained  by  this  position.  The  literal  point  of  view  becomes  a  sign  in  this  code  of   connotation   equally   polysemic   in   itself.   With   documentary   photographs   the   viewer  always  accepts  that  someone  else  has  chosen  the  point  of  view  that  they   then   witness   themselves.   However,   Ladies’   Day   (Fig.   15)   whilst   it   may   seem   innocent   within   the   context   of   the   other  We   English   images   proves   also   to   be   a   good   example   of   how,   despite   the   photographer’s   intentions,   the   meanings   attributed   to   photographs   are   dependent   on   cultural   knowledge   held   by   the   person  looking  at  the  picture.                            

                     

     

 

27  


Chapter  3    

Nationalist  Tendencies  

                                      In   the   light   of   Roberts’   work   it   is   important   to   note   the   distinction   between   nationalist  sentiment  and  nationalism  as  it  is  more  often  referred  to;  as  feelings   and  manifestations  of  conflict  and  separation  from  the  existing  state.  The  use  of   the   term   nationalism   (and   subsequently;   nationalist)   here   refers   to   nationalist   sentiment,   which   is   the   feeling   of   satisfaction   aroused   by   the   fulfillment   of   nationalist   principle.   According   to   Ernst   Gellner   in   Nations   and   Nationalism   (1983)   this   is   the   principle   of   homogenous   cultural   units   as   the   foundations   of   life,  and  of  the  obligatory  unity  of  rules  and  the  ruled  (Gellner,  1983).       On   consideration   it   seems   impossible   that   a   person   could   be   without   nationality,   for  this  state  of  nationlessness  defies  the  understanding  of  recognised  categories   of  being.  Although  having  a  nation  is  not  an  inherent  attribute  of  humanity,  it  has   come   to   appear   as   such   (Gellner,   1983).   Nationalism   is   inscribed   neither   in   the   nature  of  things,  nor  in  the  hearts  of  people,  nor  in  the  pre-­‐conditions  of  social   life  in  general  (Gellner,  1983).  The  condition  that  it  is  so  inscribed  is  a  false  hood   which   nationalist   doctrine   has   succeeded   in   presenting   as   self   evident.  

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Nationalism   holds   that   the   nation   should   be   congruent27   and   that   any   idea   of   a   nation   or   nationalism   is   inconceivable   without   the   existence   of   a   centre   for   power.   However,   modern   humans   are   not   loyal   to   a   monarch,   a   land   or   even   a   faith.   They   are   loyal   to   culture   (Gellner,   1983).   Identity   then   for   members   of   modern   industrial   society   is   based   on   culture28   and   culture   itself   becomes   a   centre  for  power.    

  Figure  16.  Cover  image,  We  English  (2009).  

  Like   We   English   nationalism   also   reflects   and   expresses   the   centrality   of   standardised   culture   in   society,   which   it   also   validates29.   This   validation   allows   people   to   function,   but   this   is   not   to   say   that   this   validated   culture   is   the   only   possibility.       Nationalism   appears   to   be   a   unifying   process,   as   demonstrated   through   Roberts’                                                                                                                   27  An  attitude  clearly  demonstrated  by  the  images  in  We  English.   28  

Unlike   members   of   Agrarian   societies   of   the   past   where   roles   were   cast   and   last   a   lifetime;   priest,   aristocrat,  peasant,  king  etc.   29   Photography   can   become   a   powerful   tool   in   realising   nationalist   aims   in   that   it   reinforces   what   it   reflects   through   the   process   John   Tagg   describes   as   double   movement   in   ideological   discourse,   briefly   discussed   in   Chapter  1.  

 

29  


title  icon.  The  cover  of  the  book  (see  Fig.  16)  displays  an  outline  of  England  as  if   physically   separate30   from   the   inseparable31   countries   of   Wales   and   Scotland.   The  St  George’s  Cross32  descends  over  the  territory  emblazoned  with  the  words   'We   English'   indicating   an   English   Nationalist   persuasion.   Roberts   mentions   wanting   to   wrestle33   the   English   flag   away   from   the   nationalists   who   revel   in   ideas   of   superiority   and   separation.   But   this   is   a   difficult   move   open   to   misinterpretation   and   the   mis-­‐association   of   what   is   now   seen   as   a   nationalist   icon   more   readily   than   a   national   emblem.   The   content   is   not   so   overtly   political   or  controversial  and  offers  only  a  nationalist  sentiment.       Roberts   has   recognised   that   today’s   generation   has   little   affiliation   with   Great   Britain   and   a   desire   to   discover   themselves   as   'English'.   Consequently   he   cites   the   devolution   of   Scotland   and   Wales   as   a   motivating,   and   it   can   be   assumed   a   reactionary,   if   not   dictating,   political   factor   in   his   quest   for   an   aspect   of   'Englishness'.   However,   the   issue   of   devolution   is   complex   and   somewhat   contradictory34.   Devolution   it   seems   has   created   an   anomaly,   for   despite   some   semblance   of   independence   for   Scotland   and   Wales,   England   is   liable   to   their   influence   and   this   will   continue   as   long   as   a   UK   Parliament   is   the   chosen   form   of   Government   for   England.   So,   as   far   as   the   English   are   concerned,   any   idea   of   England   without   Scotland   or   Wales   can   only   exist   physically,   through   the   agreed                                                                                                                   30  Roberts  here  uses  ideas  of  separation  and  difference  as  a  unifying  device,  a  ‘them  and  us’  scenario.   31  Physically  and  currently  politically  despite  devolution.   32  The  English  and  Welsh  flag  since  1277,  the  Welsh  only  adopting  a  flag  of  their  own  as  recently  as  1959.   33  Again  perhaps  heroically.   34   As   it   stands   The   National   Assembly   for   Wales   (established   in   1998)   possesses   the   power   to   determine  

how  the  government  budget  for  Wales  is  spent  and  administered,  but  Wales  does  not  have  full  law  making   powers   and   this   means   that   English   laws   still   apply.   On   the   other   hand   the   Scottish   Parliament   (established   1998)  has  powers  to  make  primary  legislation  in  certain  devolved  areas  of  policy  as  well  as  some  limited  tax   varying   powers,   but   still   the   UK   government   has   control   of   certain   'reserved'   areas   of   policy.   Both   the   National   Welsh   Assembly   and   the   Scottish   Parliament   were   created   by   the   Labour   party   on   its   appointment   to   office   in   1997   and   justified   on   the   basis   that   the   respective   populations   of   Wales   and   Scotland   felt   alienated  from  Westminster,  largely  because  of  the  policies  of  the  previous  two  conservative  governments,   those  of  John  Major  and  Margaret  Thatcher.  There  exists  as  a  consequence  of  the  devolution  of  Scotland  and   Wales   for   England   what   is   referred   to   as   the   West   Lothian   Question,   which,   in   brief,   questions   for   how  long   will   the   English   tolerate   at   least   119   Honourable   Members   from   Scotland,   Wales   and   Northern   Ireland   exercising  an  important,  and  probably  often  decisive,  effect  on  English  politics  while  they  themselves  have   no   say   in   the   same   matters   in   Scotland,   Wales   and   Northern   Ireland?   However,   under   the   current   set   up   where   both   the   Prime   Minister   Gordon   Brown   and   the   Chancellor   of   the   Exchequer   Alistair   Darling   represent  Scottish  constituencies,  English  votes  for  English  laws  would  mean  exclusion  from  voting  for  the   heads  of  the  leading  party  in  UK  Parliament.    

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borders   of   territory   and   certainly   not   politically   and   therefore   culturally35.   Devolution,   as   Roberts   expresses   through   his   rhetoric   and   photographic   work,   prompts  consideration  of  the  end  of  Britain  and  subsequently  the  end  of  Empire.   For  Roberts  what  matters  now  is  what  it  means  to  be  English,  for  what  it  meant   to  be  British  no  longer  exists36.  A  proposed  return  to  the  past  however,  is  only  a   search   for   reassurance   and   confirmation.   This   act   would   be   directly   consistent   with  the  everyday  experience  that  in  seemingly  abstruse  ways  life  is  unsettling,   dislocated  and  mediocre.  Recognising  that  heritage,  as  an  adjunct  of  nationality,   is   exclusive   (i.e.   in   this   case   that   is   English)   might   also   encourage   nostalgia   for   the  past,  for  a  return  to  those  more  certain  times   when  people  knew  their  place.   Heritage   celebration,   a   position   We   English   comfortably   assumes,   might   then   become   a   form   of   continuous   deference   in   a   nation   still   nostalgic   about   class   distinctions   and   hierarchies.   Gellner’s   study   reveals   that   the   wish   to   save   England  and  present  it  in  one  of  its  past  forms  is  a  powerful  and  motivating  force   in   the   country.   Indeed   the   conservative   view,   in   which   the   past   is   held   to   be   in   some   ways   preferable   or   superior   to   the   present,   should   not   be   dismissed   as   archaic  or  outmoded  (Gellner,  1983).     Gellner   suggests   this   conservatism   is   useful   in   galvanizing   individuals   to   achieve   a   certain   political   state   and   to   exercise   nostalgic   sentiment   in   the   favour   of   nationalism.   Conservatives37   and   nationalists   both   wish   to   revere   and   respect   the  concrete  realities  of  the  past  and  seldom  subject  these  realities  to  reason  or   inquiry.   Roberts’   position   as   an   uncritical   and   optimistic   photographer   potentially   places   him   within   these   political   orientations.   In   a   blog   post   from   April   2008   (see   Appendix   2,   paragraph   6)   Roberts   discloses   his   desire   to   make   ‘nuanced  and  beautiful,  even  elegiac’  images  of  England.  This  seems  to  evidence   Gellner’s   proposal   and   suggest   that   Roberts   intends   to   resurrect   an   image   of   England   from   those   more   certain   times.   This   is   further   supported   in   the   same   blog  post  with  the  statement;                                                                                                                   35  The  cultural  differences,  though  evident,  are  perhaps  only  equatable  to  the  cultural  differences  between  

the  English  Counties.   36  Britishness  is  now  something  else,  perhaps  something  particular  English  people  do  not  want.   37  Conservatives  hold  traditional  attitudes  and  values  generally,  and  are  wary  of  innovation  and  change.  

 

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‘I   am   interested   in   the   reality   of   an   England   at   this   time   of   rapid   social   and   cultural   flux   but   am   not   seeking   to   overturn   stereotyped   images   of   traditional   English  scenes.’  (Roberts,  2008.  See  Appendix  2,  paragraph  7)   This   position   is   rather   difficult   in   that   the   ‘reality’   of   England   may   very   well   require  that  stereotypes  are  overturned  and  that  ‘long-­‐held  mental  images’  (see   Appendix  2,  paragraph  7)  of  England  are  no  longer  applicable  or  viable,  even  as   apparently   legitimate   representations.   This   tendency   in   wanting   to   read   the   present   in   terms   of   the   established   imagery   of   the   past,   particularly   through   traditional  ‘English’  imagery  is  something  John  Kippin  sought  to  examine  in  his   work   Nostalgia   for   the   Future   (1995).   Kippin’s   image   Prayer   Meeting,   Windermere  (Fig.  17)  is  interesting  as  a  counterpoint  to  Roberts’  image  Stanage   Edge,  Hathersage,  Derbyshire,  3rd  August  2008  (Fig.  19).    

  Figure  17.  John  Kippin  1995,  Prayer  Meeting,  Windermere    

Kippin  provokes  the  idyllic  myth  of  countryside  culture  and  exclusivity  through   the  new  combination  of  familiar  imagery  and  foreign  act.  A  glance  at  the  image  

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might  indulge  familiar  imagery  and  suggest  that  the  group  is  picnicking,  as  if  in   Roberts’  image  Paul  Herrington’s  50th  Birthday,  Grantcester,  Cambridgeshire,  15th   June   2008   (Fig.   18),   but   a   closer   look   reveals   that   the   women   and   children   of   the   Muslim  group  are  separate  from  the  men  who  are  engaged  in  prayer.    

  Figure  18.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Paul  Herrington’s  50th  Birthday,  Grantcester,  Cambridgeshire,   15th  June  2008    

It  may  well  be  that  the  group  has  congregated  by  the  lake  for  social  reasons,  as  is   customary   for   visitors   to   Lake   Windermere,   and   that   the   requirements   of   the   Islamic   religion   mean   that   prayer   takes   place   at   specific   times   and   not   in   specific   places.   This   is   negligible   because   of   what   the   photographer   pictures;   the   photograph   shows   the   group   immersed   in   a   cultural   act   peculiar   to   another   land   against   the   backdrop   of   the   famous   Cumbrian   lake.   The   lake   here   signifies   Englishness   and   an   England   at   peace   with   itself.   In   Roberts’   photograph   of   a   Muslim   couple   descending   a   rocky   peak,   Stanage   Edge   (Fig.   19),   the   cultural   difference  is  signified  by  costume  and  not  by  gesture.  Conveniently  Roberts’      

 

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Figure  19.  Simon  Roberts  2009,  Stanage  Edge,  Hathersage,  Derbyshire,  3rd  August  2008    

Muslims   here   enjoy   the   countryside   in   the   same   manner38   that   is   seen   throughout  the  We  English  images  allowing  him  to  confirm  again  the  existence  of   a   common   mould   that   we   can   call   English.   If   nationalism   necessitates   a   certain   cultural   congruity   Roberts   has   certainly   evidenced   that   here.   His   photograph39   (Fig.   19)   presents   an   act   of   submission   of   one   culture   to   another,   thereby   affirming   the   dominance   of   the   white   middle   class   attitude   toward   how   the   countryside  is  used  and  seen.  Roberts’  diversity  is  comforting  and  affirmative  of   the  idea  of  an  England  he  seeks  to  promote,  Kippin's  provocative  and  disruptive   of   an   assumed   stability   of   place   in   relation   to   identity   and   meaning.   Roberts   is   operating   in   the   knowledge   of   John   Kippin’s   photograph   and   also   in   the   knowledge  of  Ingrid  Pollard’s  Pastoral  Interludes  (1987),  a  work  that  approaches                                                                                                                   38  The  couple,  from  Leicester,  were  on  a  walking  holiday  exploring  the  English  countryside  and  professed  to  

Roberts  that  they  felt  completely  at  ease  in  the  countryside.  See  Roberts’  commentary  on  pg.  58  of  We   English.   39  Interestingly  Roberts  has  charged  the  image  with  a  challenge  to  the  stereotype  that  suggests  that  the   English  countryside  is  dominated  by  the  white  middle  classes,  on  the  contrary  and  in  relation  to  the  other   images  in  the  book  it  merely  confirms  the  stereotype.  

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notions   of   difference   and   cultural   identity   in   relation   to   the   British   landscape   critically  and  with  considerable  insight.  Indeed  she  finds  no  slackening  of  white   hegemony   in   the   countryside   (Taylor,   1994).   By   admirably   presenting   a   (albeit   superficial)   joining   of   hands,   perhaps   Roberts   is   attempting   to   dismiss   latent   political  tensions  between  Islamic  factions  and  so  called  ‘Western’  ideals,  whilst   simultaneously   presenting   the   countryside   and   countryside   culture   as   the   emblem  of  the  nation40.     Perhaps   erroneously,   Roberts   seems   to   be   stating   that   the   leisure   ideals   he   focuses   on   throughout   his   representation   are   valid   for   all   English   people.   Turning   them   into   effective   norms,   he   thereby   satisfies   the   nationalist   imperative;  the  congruence  of  culture  and  polity.                                                                                                                                                     40   Perhaps   Roberts   is   also   suggesting   that   these   notions   of   difference   and   assumptions   about   countryside  

culture   commented   on   by   Kippin   and   Pollard   are   no   longer   relevant   and   that   pervasive   ideological   assumptions   about   the   countryside   in   relation   to   identity   have   been   resolved   to   the   degree   where   the   signifiers  of  ‘other’  cultures,  such  as  the  garments  of  the  couple  in  Stanage  Edge  (Fig.  19)  are  all  but  invisible   and  equally  do  not  belie  the  existence  of  that  common  mould  that  we  can  call  English.      

   

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In  Conclusion                                 If   it   were   Roberts’   aim   to   document   those   leisure   destinations   and   types   that   have  shaped  his  own  experience  of  this  aspect  of  English  life  then  I  would  think   he   had   been   successful.   The   aim   however,   is   that   We   English   represents   the   people  of  England.     Nationalism   tends   to   treat   itself   as   a   manifest   and   self   evident   principle   that   defends   continuity   and   cultural   diversity   when   in   fact   it   imposes   homogeneity   and   owes   everything   to   the   significant   break   in   history   that   led   to   industrial   development   and   subsequently   a   mass   culture   (Gellner,   1983).   We   English   clearly   occupies   nationalist   territory   in   its   choice   to   represent   a   nation,   the   narrowness   of   which   contributes   to   forging   a   high   culture   and   building   an   anonymous   mass   society   where   thin   secular   idealism   becomes   the   dominant   attitude  to  life.  It  procures  for  the  individual  viewer  the  instantaneous  view  of  a   great   multitude,   and   far   from   reveling   in   the   defiant   individual   will,   delights   in   feelings   of   submission   and   incorporation   in   a   continuous   entity   greater,   more   persistent  and  more  legitimate  than  the  isolated  self.      

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It  is  perhaps  unfair  to  suggest  that  the  work  is  aiming  at  presenting  England  in   one  of  its  past  forms,  however  the  lack  of  acknowledgement  to  the  (then)  current   state   politically   and   socially   is   conspicuous   at   the   very   least.   The   conditions   of   life   in   England,   not   excluding   easily   forgettable   international   activities,   at   the   time   of   writing,   work   to   make   Roberts’   photographs   seem   absurd   on   the   one   hand   and   compelling   on   the   other.   The   wealthy   (those   leisure   and   pleasure   seeking  figures  seen  in  We  English)  it  seems  can  pass  their  lives  without  contact   with   the   rest   of   society,   emulating   the   noble   idleness   of   hunter-­‐gatherers,   the   pressure   to   maintain   social   cohesion   only   slightly   felt.   When   such   an   overtly   nostalgic  description  of  England  is  given  such  coverage  one  can  only  assume  it  to   be   testament   to   unstable   and   uncertain   times.   Photography   as   used   by   Roberts   gives  the  impression  that  a  given  idea  (nationalism)  happens  to  be  there.  And  it   is  for  this  reason  that  photography  used  in  this  way  is  an  adequate  medium  for   patriotic   reaffirmation,   but   only   for   the   unthinking   individual.   Mindfully   Allan   Sekula  asks  a  more  pertinent  and  challenging  question;  how  do  we  elicit  an  art   that   produces   dialogue   rather   than   uncritical,   pseudo   political   affirmation?   (Sekula,  1978)                          

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Appendix  1   Brief  Interview  with  Simon  Roberts  7th  January  2010                             Answers  to  your  questions  as  promised.     You  might  be  interested  in  watching  this  video  on  Lens  Culture,  which  I  recently   conducted,  it  may  help  with  some  of  the  questions  below-­‐   http://www.lensculture.com/roberts-­‐video.html     1.  Would  you  accept  being  described  as  a  conservative  traditionalist,  and  what   does  this  label  mean  to  you?       I  don’t  subscribe  to  any  particular  labels,  which  are  usually  reductive  in  any  case.     I  suppose  you  could  describe  my  photographic  approach  as  traditional,  in  the   sense  that  I  use  a  5x4  plate  camera,  film  and  engage  in  very  little  digital  post   production.    And  from  the  outset  of  the  We  English  project  I  was  certain  that   I  didn’t  want  to  make  any  overtly  political  statements  (which  is  not  to  say  that  I   don’t  have  political  views  -­‐  I  do,  and  they’re  certainly  not  conservative!  -­‐  or  have   undertaken  /  or  intend  undertaking  ‘oppositional  photography’).    

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My  photographic  gaze  was  certainly  not  as  critical  as  some  of  the  work  done  by   British  photographers  before  and  I  didn’t  want  it  to  be.  By  choosing  leisure  as  my   thematic  approach,  the  work  was  always  going  to  take  a  more  celebratory   stance.  You  could  say  that  the  work  is  an  ode  to  England,  or  rather,  my  attempt  to   try  and  discover  where  and  how  the  English  feel  connected  to  their  homeland.   It’s  a  quiet  body  of  work,  which  rewards  the  viewer  who  spends  time  studying   each  picture  carefully.       2.  What  conclusions  did  you  draw  from  your  dissertation  study  and  what  impact,  if   any,  did  this  have  on  your  photographic  works,  particularly  'We  English'?     This  blog  post  on  We  English  should  help-­‐  http://we-­‐english.co.uk/blog/?p=664     3.  Is  'We  English'  photography  or  art,  or  both?  Or  is  it  a  commercial  product?  Are   these  ideas  mutually  exclusive?     I  view  the  book  as  a  whole  as  a  historic  document,  which  maps  the  socio-­‐cultural   landscape  of  England  in  2008  through  photographic  representation.      I  do  think   my  photography  is  art  and  believe  that  every  single  image  in  We  English  works   as  a  stand-­‐alone  piece  of  art.    And  of  course,  the  project  was  also  a  commercial   enterprise,  but  economic  considerations  are  always  secondary  to  the  artistic   aims  and  ideas  of  a  project.     4.  You  say  you  did  not  want  to  be  derivative  of  the  work  of  the  British   photographers  who  went  before  you,  but  there  are  clear  examples  in  'We  English'   that  suggest  otherwise.  How  do  you  account  for  this?       You  would  have  to  give  me  specific  examples  of  British  photographers  that  you   think  have  influenced  We  English,  but  I  am  sure  there  are  several  photographers   whose  work  has  inspired  me,  whether  consciously  or  unconsciously  and  that   inspiration  will  inevitably  filter  down  into  some  of  my  work.    I  think  it  is  quite   right  that  one’s  work  can  be  located  within  a  much  broader  context  and  shows   an  awareness  and  appreciation  of  what  has  gone  before.    However,  it   nonetheless  has  to  be  doing  something  new  and  offering  new  ways  of  seeing  the   world.    I  believe  that  when  viewed  in  its  entirety,  We  English  is  uniquely   different  to  any  other  photographic  account  made  by  British  photographers  in   the  past.    

 

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5.  Your  work  is  remarkably  similar  to  Peter  Bialobrzeski's  'Hiemat'  and  I  am  also   reminded  of  Massimo  Vitali's  beach  photographs.  You  also  cite  Dutch  painters  as   an  influence.  Do  you  see  any  problems  with  using  this  European  style  to  represent   the  English?     My  approach  to  We  English  was  born  out  of  a  single  photograph  I  took  in  Russia   called  ‘Victory  Day  Picnic,  Yekaterinburg’  –  see  attached.  I  was  struck  by  the   relationship  between  the  consolations  of  groups  of  people  and  their  relationship   to  one  another,  alongside  the  setting  of  this  traditional  Russian  scene,  which   evokes  the  backdrop  to  many  early  Russian  landscape  painting  –  the  muted   colours,  silver  birch  forest  and  slightly  melancholy  feel.  I  was  particularly   interested  in  the  small  details  and  signifiers  that  you  pick  up  once  you  invest   time  studying  the  photograph  –  such  as  the  balloons  pinned  to  the  tree,  and  a  few   burst  balloons  that  have  got  caught  in  branches.  I  very  much  wanted  to  explore   my  only  country  using  a  similar  photographic  approach  taking  large  panoramas   of  the  landscape,  which  were  populated  with  individuals  or  groups  of  people.       Interestingly  this  Yekaterinburg  photograph  was  taken  in  May  2005,  around  the   same  time  that  Bialobrzeski  was  producing  his  work  for  'Hiemat'  (which   published  in  late  2005).  While  I’m  certainly  interested  in  the  work  of  European   photographs  (such  as  Gursky’s  early  work,  Joachim  Brohm’s  photographs  on  the   Ruhr  area  of  Germany  from  the  late  1970s  and  Alfred  Seiland’s  work  on  his   homeland  of  Austria  in  the  1980s)  I’d  say  I’ve  been  more  influenced  by  the  work   of  the  American  colour  landscape  photographers  such  as  Shore  and  Sternfeld.  I   don’t  feel  that  my  photography  sits  within  a  purely  European  style,  in  fact  there   are  all  manner  of  references  in  my  work  from  cultural  geography  and   anthropology  to  popular  culture  and  British  landscape  painting.  I  certainly  don’t   have  any  problem  using  the  approach  I  did  to  represent  the  English.       End.                  

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Appendix   About  We  English  –  Blog  post  by  Roberts  dated  April  1st  2008                         1   We  English  aims  to  be  a  rich,  extensive  and  nuanced  corpus  of  images  that  help   create   a   new   dialogue   in   the   photographic   analysis   of   contemporary   English   society   and   the   challenging   notion   of   Englishness,   and   which   extends   a   rich   history  of  British  photographers  documenting  their  homeland.   2   After  spending  two  years  producing  a  book  about  Russia  and  Russian  identity   (Motherland  published  by  Chris  Boot)  began  in  turn  to  think  about  my  own   homeland  and  about  the  concept  of  Englishness  and  all  its  complexities.   3   We  English  will  be  a  sustained  photographic  documentation  of  England  in  2008.   My  aim  is  to  create  a  photographic  journal  of  life,  specifically  documenting   landscapes  where  groups  of  people  congregate  for  a  common  purpose  and   shared  experience.  It  will  be  about  what  people  do  in  their  spare  time,  their   leisure  pursuits  and  pastimes  and  how  people  derive  meaning  and  identity  from   these  activities.    It  will  also  be  about  people’s  relationship  with  their   environment,  whether  their  immediate  surroundings  are  urban  or  rural.     Recreation  will  provide  the  basis  for  a  wider  exploration  of  people’s  attachment   to  place  and  the  way  in  which  the  inhabitants  of  England  derive  meaning  and   identity  from  everyday  events  and  activities.    The  project  will  focus  on  events   that  take  place  on  a  local  level  and  at  locations  where  everyday  rituals  are  played  

 

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out.    (While  traditional  communities  have  weakened,  our  attachment  to  locality   remains  strong  and  provides  an  important  expression  of  identity.)     4   Logistically,  We  English  will  take  the  form  of  a  series  of  journeys  around  England   in  a  motorhome  (the  main  journey  being  from  April  until  September  when  I  will   be  joined  by  my  wife  and  daughter).  The  journeys  will  be  based  on  my  own   research  together  with  ideas  sourced  via  this  website  where  I’m  encouraging   you,  the  general  public  to  post  details  about  events  and  share  information  about   your  ideas  on  the  notion  of  Englishness  and  how  it  relates  to  you.  This   collaboration  will  be  important  in  dealing  with  the  complex  issues  surrounding   notions  of  cultural  representation  and  will  also  enable  me  to  access  a  broader   spectrum  of  themes  and  geographical  locations.  Moreover,  We  English  will  be  a   pilgrimage  of  sorts,  where  I  will  seek  out  those  places  that  I  believe  have  helped   shaped  my  own  feelings  of  Englishness.   5   The  project  will  extend,  and  reflect  upon,  a  history  of  documentary  photographic   projects  and  the  variety  of  approaches  that  British  photographers  have  utilised   to  capture  the  lives  of  diverse  communities  across  the  country  and  explore  issues   surrounding  national  identity  and  the  constantly  shifting  notion  of  Englishness.   The  long  and  rich  tradition  of  British  photographers  documenting  their   homeland,  some  of  which  could  be  seen  in  the  recent  exhibition  at  Tate  Britain   ‘How  We  Are  –  Photographing  Britain,’  has  seen  work  produced  by  the  likes  of   Humphrey  Spender,  Bill  Brandt,  Tony  Ray  Jones,  Ingrid  Pollard,  Martin  Parr,  John   Davies  and  Jem  Southam  to  name  a  few.    However,  the  past  decade  has  seen   relatively  little  work  produced  by  British  photographers.   6   We  English  will  draw  on  aspects  of  human  geography  and  on  cultural  geography,   particularly.  Since  landscape  has  long  been  used  as  a  commodity,  an  aesthetic   amenity  that  is  there  to  be  consumed,  it  makes  sense  to  use  leisure  activities,  no   matter  how  banal  they  might  appear,  as  a  way  into  an  exploration  of  England’s   shifting  cultural  and  aesthetic  identity.    Whilst  I  hope  to  produce  images  that  are   nuanced  and  beautiful,  even  elegiac,  they  will  nonetheless  explore  that  ways  in   which  landscape  can  also  become  a  place  of  conflict,  a  place  where  received  ideas   about  nationhood  and  quintessential  Englishness  are  challenged.   7   I  am  interested  in  the  reality  of  an  England  at  this  time  of  rapid  social  and   cultural  flux  but  am  not  seeking  to  overturn  stereotyped  images  of  traditional  

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English  scenes.  (This  has  already  been  admirably  achieved  by  John  Kippin,  Ingrid   Pollard  and  others.)  We  English  will  yield  contemporary  visions  of  my  country   that  recognise  the  narrowness  of  long-­‐held  mental  images  of  England  and   explore  the  ambiguities  and  complexities  of  our  place  within  the  world  around   us  in  a  manner  that  amplifies  and  extends  meaning.                                            

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Bibliography                     Books   Adams,  R.,  ‘Beauty  and  Photography’,  1996,  Aperture,  New  York,  USA   Althusser,  L.,  ‘On  Ideology’  (Radical  Thinkers  series),  2008,  Verso,  London,  UK   Barthes,  R.,  (trans.,  Heath,  S.),  ‘Image,  Music,  Text’,  1977,  Fotanna  Press,  London,   UK   Barthes,  R.,  (trans.,  Cape,  J.),  ‘Mythologies’,  1993,  Vintage  Books,  London,  UK   Bate,  D.,  ‘Photography;  The  Key  Concepts’,  2009,  Berg,  Oxford,  UK   Baudrillard,  J.,  (trans.,  Faria  Glaser,  S.),  ‘Simulacra  and  Simulation’,  2006,   University  of  Michigan  Press,  Michigan,  USA   Baudrillard,  J.,  (ed.,  Lotringer,  S.,  trans.,  Hodges,  A.),  ‘The  Conspiracy  of  Art’,  2005,   Semiotext(E),  The  MIT  Press,  London,  UK   Baudrillard,  J.,  (trans.,  Benedict,  J.),  ‘The  System  of  Objects’,  2005,  Verso,  London,   UK  

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Beech,  D.  (ed.),  ‘Documents  of  Contemporary  Art;  beauty’,  2009,  Whitechapel   Gallery/The  MIT  Press,  London/Massachusetts,  UK/USA   Berger,  J.,  ‘About  Looking’,  1980,  Vintage  International,  New  York     Berger,  J.,  ‘Ways  of  Seeing’,  1972,  Penguin  Books,  London,  UK   Bolton,  B.  (ed.),    'The  Contest  of  Meaning',  1989,  The  MIT  Press,  Cambridge,   London,  UK     Bourdieu,   P.,   (trans.,   Whiteside,   S.),   ‘Photography   -­   A   Middlebrow   Art’,   1990,   Polity  Press,  UK     Brittain,  D.,  (ed.),  ‘Creative  Camera;  30  Years  of  Writing’,  1999,  Manchester   University  Press,  UK   Mellor,  D.  A.,  ‘Picturing  the  Empire;  Cecil  Beaton’,  1982,  pg.  59   Burgin,  V.,  (ed.),  Thinking  Photography,  1982,  Macmillan  Press,  London,  UK   Collins,  S.,  ‘Seascape’,  2009,  Film  and  Video  Umbrella,  England    

Alfrey,  N.,  ‘Some  sea  pictures,  Real  and  imaginary’,  pg.  21  

Davies,  J.,  ‘The  British  Landscape’,  2006,  Christ  Boot  Ltd.,  London,  UK   Eisinger,  J.,  ‘Trace  and  Transformation;  American  Criticisms  of  Photography  in  the   Modernist  period’,  1999,  University  of  New  Mexico  Press,  USA   Elkins,  J.  (ed.),  'Photography  Theory',  2007,  Routledge,  New  York,  USA   Evans,  J.,  Boswell,  D.,  ‘Representing  the  Nation;  A  reader’,  1999,  Routledge,  Oxon,   UK   Flusser,  V.,  (trans.,  Mathews,  A.),  ‘Towards  a  Philosophy  of  Photography’,  2007,   Reaktion  Books  Ltd,  London,  UK   Foucault,  M.,  (ed.,  Faubion,  J.  D.),  ‘Power;  essential  works  of  Foucault  1954-­1984   volume  3’,  2000,  Penguin  Books,  London,  UK     Friday,  J.  'Aesthetics  and  Photography',  2002,  Ashgate  Publishing  Limited,  Hants,   UK    

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Gellner,  E.,  ‘Nations  and  Nationalism’,  2006,  Blackwell  Publishing,  Oxford,  UK   Gray,  J.,  ‘Straw  Dogs  –  Thoughts  on  Humans  and  other  animals’,  2002,  Granta   Books,  London,  UK   Krauss,  R.  E.,  ‘The  Originality  of  the  Avant-­Garde  and  Other  Modernist  Myths’,   1993,  The  MIT  Press,  London,  UK     Parr,  M.,  ‘The  Last  Resort;  Photographs  of  New  Brighton’,  1986,  Dewi  Lewis   Publishing,  UK   Roberts,  S.,  ‘Motherland’,  2007,  Chris  Boot  Ltd,  London,  UK   Roberts,  S.,  ‘We  English’,  2009,  Chris  Boot  Ltd.,  London,  UK   Ryan,  J.  R.,  ‘Picturing  Empire;  Photography  and  the  Visualisation  of  the  British   Empire’,  1197,  Reaktion  Books  Ltd,  London,  UK   Sarup,  M.,  ‘Poststructuralism  and  Postmodernism’,  1988,  Harvester  Wheatsheaf,   Hertfordshire,  UK   Scharf,  A.,  ‘Art  and  Photography’,  1974,  Penguin  Books,  London,  UK     Sekula,  A.,  ‘Photography  Against  the  Grain:  Essays  and  Photo  Works  1973-­1983’,   1984,  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and  Design  Press,  Halifax,  Canada     Sekula  A.,  ‘Dismantling  Modernism,  Reinventing  Documentary  (Notes  on  the   Politics  of  Representation)’,  1978,  pg.  57   Squires,  C.,  (ed.),  ‘The  Critical  Image;  Essays  on  Contemporary  Photography’,  1991,   Lawrence  &  Wishart,  London,  UK    

Krauss,  R.,  ‘A  note  on  Photography  and  the  Simulacral’,  pg.  15  

 

Metz,  C.,  ‘Photography  and  Fetish’,  pg.  155    

Steichen,  E.,  ‘The  Family  of  Man’,  2008,  MOMA,  New  York,  USA   Tagg,  J.,  ‘The  Burden  of  Representation’,  1988,  The  Macmillan  Press  Ltd.,  London  

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Taylor,  J.,  ‘A  Dream  of  England;  Landscape,  photography  and  the  tourist’s   imagination’,  1994,  Manchester  University  Press,  UK   Trachtenberg,   A.,   (ed.),   ‘Classic   Essays   on   Photography’,   1980,   Leete’s   Island   Books,  CT,  USA      

Baudelaire,  C.,  ‘The  Modern  Public  and  Photography’,  pg.  83  

 

Bazin,  A.,  ‘The  Ontology  of  the  Photographic  Image’,  pg.  237     Benjamin,  W.,  ‘A  Short  History  of  Photography’,  pg.  199   Hine,  L.,  ‘Social  Photography’,  pg.  109  

Ware,  V.,  ‘Who  cares  about  Britishness;  A  global  view  of  the  National  Identity   Debate’,  2007,  Arcadia  Books,  London,  UK   Wells,   L.,   (ed.),   ‘Photography:   a   Critical   Introduction‘,   1997,   Routledge,   London,   UK   Journals   Corner,  J.,  &  Harvey  S.,  ‘Heritage  in  Britain’,  1990,  Ten.8  International   Photography  Magazine,  36.  pp  14-­‐21   Fletcher.  J.,  ‘Away  from  the  Shopping  Centre’,  2009/10,  Source  Photographic   Review,  61.  pp  72-­‐74     Hedges,  N.,  &  Seabrook,  J.,  ‘The  Meaning  of  Environment’,  Ten.8  International   Photography  Magazine,  36.  pp  22-­‐41   Taylor,  J.,  ‘The  Preservation  of  England’,  1990,  Ten.8  International  Photography   Magazine,  36.  pp  2-­‐13.   Internet  Sources  –  all  accessed  between  August  2009  and  January  2010     Promotion  and  Review  of  We  English  (2009)   http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-­‐entertainment/art/features/this-­‐is-­‐ england-­‐a-­‐new-­‐book-­‐of-­‐photos-­‐captures-­‐the-­‐essence-­‐of-­‐the-­‐english-­‐outdoors-­‐ 1795592.html    

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http://www.foto8.com/new/component/search/Simon%2Broberts/%252F?or dering=&searchphrase=all   http://www.whatsthejackanory.com/2009/09/mad-­‐dogs-­‐and-­‐englishmen/   http://www.lensculture.com/roberts_english.html   http://www.ahornmagazine.com/simon_roberts.html   http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/aug/22/english-­‐leisure-­‐simon-­‐roberts   http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/photoblog/2009/10/the_english_at_leisure.html   http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/10/review_we_english_by_simon_roberts.h tml   http://www.southhillpark.org.uk/exhibitiondetail.jsp?id=9017&range=all   http://www.bjp-­‐online.com/public/showPage.html?page=871249   http://www.foto8.com/new/online/interviews/1012-­‐simon-­‐roberts-­‐host-­‐ podcast   http://www.lensculture.com/webloglc/mt_files/archives/2009/12/beauty-­‐of-­‐ photobooks.html   http://www.lensculture.com/roberts-­‐video.html   http://www.flickr.com/groups/onthestreet/discuss/72157621992737841/?sea rch=we+english   http://we-­‐english.co.uk/index.html   http://we-­‐english.co.uk/blog/   General  Internet  Research  Sources   http://www.johndavies.uk.com/   http://news.parliament.uk/2009/05/report-­‐on-­‐devolution-­‐and-­‐the-­‐ governance-­‐of-­‐england/   http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-­‐photography/british_landscape_3710.jsp   http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/   http://motherlandbook.com/   http://www.inliquid.com/Fotophile/45/henry2.htm  (Ingrid  Pollard)   http://www.d-­‐log.info/britishphotography.pdf   http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-­‐index.htm   http://www.massimovitali.com/  

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http://www.rotaryfirst100.org/presidents/2009kenny/index.htm   http://www.redrow.co.uk/developments/the-­‐lakes/   http://www.uturn.org/Essays/GRUNDpdf.pdf   http://johnkippin.com/   http://www.jca-­‐online.com/burgin.html     Image  Sources   All  We  English  images  from;    

 

http://we-­‐english.co.uk/gallery.html  

Prayer  Meeting,  Windermere  (Fig.  17);    

http://johnkippin.com/  

John  Hinde  Studios  images  (Fig.  10);    

from  own  source  

Cover  image  We  English  (Fig.  16);      

http://we-­‐english.co.uk/index.html  

  Word  count     5708  

 

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We English; A critical review  

undergraduate dissertation by Peter Venner 2010 BA (Hons) Contemporary Photographic Arts Practice. Northbrook College, Sussex.

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