Thomas Joshua Cooper

I recently attended an inspiring talk by the unique artist Thomas Joshua Cooper, who is regarded as one of the world’s most important landscape artists. The event was organised by the North East Photography Network

Thomas only makes images outdoors, only ever makes one image in any one place, and uses an Agfa camera that was made in 1898. He is well known for the extraordinary lengths he goes to in order to make his images, and can spend months travelling to the remote parts of the globe to make a single image.

Cooper has always emphasized that his images are made not taken or shot and the final stage in the process takes place in the dark room.

“When I make a picture it is a considered event and a considered action, and through that consideration the act of construction occurs. So for me, I never take anything because it seems first to be overly aggressive and possessive, I make something, I originate it.” (Thomas Joshua Cooper)

“I see my photographs as meditations, it is as simple as that. To be understood they must be experienced––felt, seen, known. Consequently, I often use the medium of the landscape, for everyone, in some small way, has some very personal relation to the land––thus they are ready (and willing) to come in to look, if not into, at least at the landscapes I produce. I have trapped them then! For if l have made the concept of the photographs strong enough, the viewer will begin to still himself for, indeed, I make Still photographs––and with the coming stillness comes the possibility of a deep meditational understanding and seeing. And seeing leads to Vision. And my photographs are there mainly as pointers, indications, of a vision of possibilities where stillness and silence abound––and where Light is understood to be a substantial reality. My photographs are my greatest teachers. It is my hope that they offer a moment of pleasure to my viewers––and perhaps a tiny hit of (mutual?) understanding … but, as always, I have no expectations”. -  Thomas Joshua Cooper, Creative Camera, August, 1974, page 258

I would recommend anyone checks out Thomas’ pictures and words, as they can help to illuminate the thought process behind making pictures.

1 comment to Thomas Joshua Cooper

  • Roger,

    Excellent summary of Thomas Cooper’s recent talk in Newcastle upon Tyne and his approach to photography. Gerry Badger has recently summarised Cooper’s position in world photography and places him very very high indeed. Personally I find his work hugely inspirational too and his black and white prints are as good as any I’ve seen. Seek out his work in the many bookworks he has done but, if possible, also see the original silver prints. At their best Cooper’s prints carry a strong visceral and emotional charge. A blend of strong and resonant content and superb print quality that is rare. He is up there with my favourite photographers and printmakers such as Edward Weston, Alan Ross, John Blakemore and Paul Caponigro.

    Colin Dixon