I have more than a sneaking admiration for this work, and in particular the way it thumbs it’s nose at the idea that documentary should have some social purpose. This latter point seems to have irritated the editorial panel of Foto8 who said: “We need more than dramatic vistas or seductive tableaux, we want to know rather to know if the photographer takes a position on their mother country’s devastating record on inequality or the criminal recklessness exhibited by financial institutions for which the country will pay for decades to come.”
Well that’s their prerogative but I, on the other hand, think that some reflective view on English-ness at a time when claims to the flag are being made by the far right is no bad thing. Roberts does what documentary says on the tin..it documents. It documents the people of England and they way they interact with the countryside, which if the introductory essay to the book is anything to go by has a long history. It is a powerful example of the use of landscape photography as a documentary practice and yet many of the works remind me of more traditional painted arts e.g. Claude Lorrain if somewhat less romantic.
Little else to say really – this is documentary photography that i can identify with – it’s not shoving a message I may or may not sympathise with in my face.