Thomas Joshua Cooper is one of the most celebrated and distinctive landscape photographers working today. He was born in California in 1946, of mixed Jewish and Cherokee descent, but he has lived in Scotland since he took up a post at the Glasgow School of Art in 1982 where he is the founding Head of Photography.
Similar to artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, Cooper is a traveller whose extraordinary photographs are often made in unknown and un-noted corners of the world. Much of his working life has been spent away from Scotland in the role of an explorer, taking him from pole to pole, old world to new, but between journeys he always returns to his studio and his dark room in Glasgow.
Scattered Waters is the result of journeys around Scotland, photographs which capture the rivers and streams traversing the country. Cooper has worked on this project for the last 32 years, chronicling the rivers that help to record and define Scotland’s identity, both geographically and poetically. A series of pictures of the Forth and Clyde rivers crossing the country from east to west and a Sea River triptych from the Gulf of Corryvreckan off the west coast of Scotland are among the works which will feature in the exhibition.
A long time ago Cooper made a series of vows: to only photograph landscape; only use black and white film; only use one camera and one lens; and to only ever make one exposure – ‘one picture, one chance’. Capturing a single image can therefore involve months of preparation and arduous travel as the given location is first found on a map, tracked down and then photographed; each place the subject of a single 5×7 inch negative, taken with a weighty wooden field camera from 1898. They are meditative, almost philosophical images, hovering between abstraction and intense figurative detail, exquisitely hand printed by the artist in the late nineteenth century manner, with layers of selenium and silver.
Scattered Waters: Sources Streams Rivers is Cooper’s ‘love letter to Scotland’, drawing on the allure of its landscape to produce some of the most beautiful and unexpected photographs that he has ever made.