Simon Roberts seems to really connect with his fellow British while he delves into the underlying psych of Great Britain. This photobook is an excellent follow-on to his photobook We English in his series utilizing a large format vision to investigate the British landscape and indirectly the culture.
His subjects for this volume are the many ocean piers lining the British coast and how the built urban landscape can reveal some of the essence of his own society. As an Island nation at one time the piers were an integral part of the economic infrastructure and were essential to trade and commerce. In the current economy, their intrinsic value is greatly diminished. There is still something elusive about these large nostalgic structures that creates a symbolic connection to the sea and British history, and are now frequently a place for leisure and play.
With the passage of time many of these grand structures are now in ruins or perhaps entirely eliminated with only the traces of memory at their former sites. Roberts includes these piers as well to provide a broad look at this subject, but without taking on the aura of “disaster porn”. Roberts is not entirely abstract and clinical in his visual investigation of his subjects and frequently introduces a human element.
As a book object, this large publication has a classic and yet contemporary appearance. The interior plates are slightly larger in size than the original 8×10” film, thus similar to reading Roberts contact prints. The smyth binding allows a lay-flat read, a real delight in studying this body of work. The paper surface is matte with the ink providing an every so light luster to provide a nice luminance to these lyrical photographs.
All of these aspects have led me to select this photobook as one of my more interesting photobooks for 2013.
Other photobooks by Simon Roberts on The PhotoBook Journal: We English