Point of No Return

By Gareth Evans

south-the-mid-atlantic-ocean.jpgSouth - The Mid Atlantic Ocean

The spectacular Atlantic Ocean series by photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper creates a dramatic and sublime cinema of the waves

Recent events have given the world fatal confirmation, if it were needed, of the sea’s potent erasures, but a remarkable, and far-reaching photographic project also conveys the ocean’s literally awful sublime, with altogether different results. Framed by a uniquely physical undertaking, it’s the work of part-Cherokee Thomas Joshua Cooper, now in his late 50s, who has for the last dozen or so years been photographing the Eastern landfall of the Atlantic as it meets Africa, Europe and the edging Arctic. Carrying a 20lb mahogany and brass field camera from 1898, Cooper has made his way to the continents’ isolated headlands, cliff tops and islets, from the southern Cape to Iceland, where he takes a single, often very long exposure shot, that seeks to capture what he has sometimes called the ‘gathered silence’ of these remote shorelines.

Such a project – calm, patient, willing and ready to humble itself before the vast object of its gaze – lies far from the urban conceptualism of the international art scene but, despite its natural associations, it cannot also be easily assimilated into the ongoing Romantic line. Closer to the Land Art movement of the last decades, it’s a conscious immersion into a scale of time and space that visualises a sense of reverence and respect closer to his first nation origins. If the sea offers us the oldest narrative of all, the journey across water towards the horizon of the known, then Cooper’s work grants us a singular access to its mystery and grace, a kind of suspended cinema, a stilling briefly of pure motion that might, if we allow it the pause and reflection required, show us where we came from and where, if we continue as we are, we might return to sooner than we think.

Point of No Return, the catalogue, is published by Haunch of Venison (www.haunchofvenison.com)