Thomas Joshua Cooper at LACMA

Artist Philip Braham wrote a powerful essay that included an analysis of the work of Thomas Joshua Cooper in issue 3 of Art North magazine. For fifty years, Cooper has been making photographs outdoors, often realised through intense physical travel to remote and isolated sites. His stunning, large-scale, black-and-white photographs encapsulate the psychological impact of the place through geographic and atmospheric details.

As Braham explained Cooper’s practice in relation to his work on the far north coast of Scotland: “Cooper lugs the camera and its wooden tripod to the furthest cardinal points of the landmass and insists on taking only one image at each point. In June 1990 he began a series titled The Swelling of the Sea that necessitated a three-month circumnavigation of Scotland, making the first photograph at Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of the UK, in a Force-8 gale. The camera and lens require long exposures, but that gives time for contemplation. Only when Cooper is certain of the right moment at which to open and close the shutter will his vision be fixed onto film then fully developed as a print.” 

Announced by the Ingleby Gallery recently, upcoming is Cooper’s exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (September 22, 2019 – February 2, 2020) which comprises sixty-five large-scale and seventy-five 8 x 10 inch black-and-white photographs that together showcase Cooper’s The Atlas of Emptiness and ExtremityThe World’s Edgethe Atlantic Basin Project, which he first embarked upon in 1987, charting the Atlantic Basin from the extreme points of each north, south, east, and west coordinate.

Thomas Joshua Cooper ,  First Light—The South Indian Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope, #2 ,  South Africa, the Southwest-Most Point of Continental Africa , 2004, Collection Lannan Foundation, © 2019 Thomas Joshua Cooper, photo courtesy of the artist.

Thomas Joshua Cooper, First Light—The South Indian Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope, #2, South Africa, the Southwest-Most Point of Continental Africa, 2004, Collection Lannan Foundation, © 2019 Thomas Joshua Cooper, photo courtesy of the artist.

Using a 19th-century Agfa Ansco view camera, his singular exposure of each site includes neither a horizon line nor the terrain below his feet, but rather the surrounding “sea spaces” that are unique, dissimilar, and not readily identifiable. For Cooper, each place is a point of departure allowing contemplation of the ocean’s emptiness beyond the extreme points of the land.

The exhibition will be complimented by a conversation-based gallery talk as part of the LACMA’s monthly Art of Looking programme – a monthly one-hour conversation-based gallery tour focusing on the permanent collection and special exhibitions. Visitors can join Elizabeth Gerber for a discussion and exploration of Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World’s Edge on October 10 (12.30pm).