Photography is Immersive: Two New Exhibitions

Last Christmas, I got a new camera, and since then I can’t keep away from photography. Even in the next issue, we’re running a feature on CONTACT, The World’s Largest Festival of Photography, but you’ll have to pick up the April issue for more information. I’ve just been reading, Photography: A Cultural History (Laurence King), and I feel so inspired.

I am really pleased to report two new exhibitions, Simon Roberts: We English and Robbie Cooper: Immersion, which have recently opened at the National Media Museum (Bradford), who are also one of our partners for the Aesthetica Short Film Competition.

During 2007 – 08, British photographer Simon Roberts travelled the length and breadth of England with his family in a motorhome, photographing people playing, relaxing and revelling in the country’s richly varied landscape. Gathered together as We English, his works are an intriguing and lyrical, personal exploration of the nation.Simon’s project reflects the strong heritage of British landscape and documentary photography, and the exhibition will include a complementary selection of photographs from the National Media Museum’s Collection, including works by Roger Fenton, Tony Ray Jones and John Davies.

Locations featured in the exhibition include Skegness Beach, Aintree Racecourse, Malvern Hills, South Downs Way and Bolton Abbey, taking in events from golf to paragliding, picnics to parties, and camping to racing across mud flats. The large prints rejoice in their subjects, showing a fantastic level of detail across expanses of terrain and the collective activities taking place.

In Gallery Two, Robbie Cooper: Immersion probes the media saturated world that we inhabit. Cooper, a photographer and video artist, has worked with volunteers over the past six years and recorded the many ways people use screen media to detach themselves from their immediate surroundings. His works examine the spread of the ‘unreal’ into daily life and investigate contemporary relationships with visual technology.

Featuring several brand new photographs and videos, Robbie Cooper: Immersion gives an intimate and revealing insight into the motivations and reactions of people watching and engaging with various forms of digital imagery; from films and TV programmes to video games and online virtual worlds.

Video and photographic pieces feature the exquisitely captured facial expressions of babies and toddlers as they watch children’s TV shows; horror fans engrossed in gory movies and documentary footage of real life violence; men and women watching adult movies and teenagers playing action video games. Thanks to the clever assembly of equipment, Cooper makes it appear as if the subjects were looking directly into the camera lens as they reacted to the images on screen.

For another set of images, titled Alter Ego, he photographed people from across the globe who create computer-generated characters, known as avatars, as representations of themselves to populate online virtual worlds and interact with other avatars. Inspired by a divorced man who used this method to gain more time to communicate with his children, Cooper travelled to locations including Korea, China, the US, Germany and France, to meet and photograph other avatar creators. Pictures of both their ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ selves are showing alongside each other in the exhibition.

Both shows explore how photography is one of the most powerful tools for communication.

Free entry, both shows run until 5 September, www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk

Image credits:

Simon Roberts: We English
All images (c) Simon Roberts

Robbie Cooper: Immersion
All images (c) Robbie Cooper
Alexander Kinch playing Call of Duty 4, 2008
Timmie McLees watching The Death of Neda, 2010
Lee Taek Soo is Crammer in World of Warcraft, 2004

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