Simon Roberts travelled throughout England in a motor home between August 2007 and September 2008, for this portfolio of large-format tableaux photographs of the English at leisure. Photographing ordinary people engaged in a variety of pastimes, his works are an intriguing and lyrical, personal exploration of Englishness.
Seeking out ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, Roberts' work shows us a populace with a profound attachment to its local environments and homeland. We English explores the notion that what it means to be English is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by everyday rituals and activities.
Roberts has produced a series of colour landscape photographs, which record places where groups of people congregate for a common purpose and shared experience. Since landscape has long been used as a commodity to be consumed, he focuses on leisure activities as a way of looking at England's shifting cultural and aesthetic identity. The photographs are rooted in a consciousness of his own attachment to his homeland and are an intentionally lyrical rendering of everyday English landscapes. They draw on issues of cultural geography and contemporary landscape theory, together with vestiges of English romanticism.
Themes of identity, memory, history and attachment to place, and belonging, resonate throughout We English. Roberts' previous work, Motherland, looked at similar themes about Russian identity. Avoiding clichéd representations of a Russia ground down by poverty and despair, Roberts' photographed a land of dignified people empowered by a growing optimism and a deep rooted sense of national esteem.