Dean O'Brien's Blog

Simon Roberts & The Election Project exhibition launch: Portcullis House, Westminster, London

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I have always been an admirer of the work of Simon Roberts.  One of the first photography books which I purchased was one of his called ‘Motherland’.  Simon had spent just over a year travelling through Russia in 2004.  In the book he documents a very different Russia to what we stereotypically imagine it to be.  It was a project that I could relate to having travelled to many ex-soviet countries myself.   I too am fascinated by the people who live in these places.  Under extreme hardship and corrupt governments the day to day struggle for many continues.

Obviously after purchasing this book I kept my eye on Simons next projects.  Motherland was followed by ‘We English’ and then ‘The Election Project’.  Although Simon had been commissioned to shoot the election project he also managed to open it up to a wider audience by encouraging members of the public to submit their own images taken on mobile phones or whatever they had to hand.  This gave the project a more realistic feel and obviously helped him to engage directly with the public and those involved at street level.  So whilst Simon was out on the campaign trail images were being emailed in from members of the public and uploaded onto the public gallery.

On arrival at Portcullis House security was very strict with airport style x-ray scanners and body searches.  This was due to two things.  One, the House of Parliament are an obvious target for terrorists and two, the Pope was across the road at Westminster Abbey.  One thing that was disappointing was the fact that no photography was allowed.  Although this was a bitter pill to swallow I fully understood that national security takes priority over such things.  Once inside, the exhibition was very well spaced out.  Downstairs there was a 15 metre installation which displayed all 1696 images which had been submitted by the general public.  This was also a great opportunity to see my six images which I had submitted.  Upstairs there were 25 large scale images, one for each day which simon spent on the campaign trail.  Copies of the limited edition newspaper which Simon had produced to mark the launch of the work were spaced out and freely available to those who wanted one.

I managed to catch up with Simon on the Sunday before I left to come home.  It was a great opportunity to ask about the project and what he was working on next.  I also discussed the ‘We English’ work which I saw exhibited at the Bradford Media Museum earlier in the year.  I told him that although I had seen the images in his book, I never really fully appreciated them until I saw them full size.  In the way that they  were meant to be visually appreciated.  The exhibition will be at Portcullis House until December so get yourself down as its well worth a visit.

Simon should be coming to talk at Coventry University later this year so I’m looking forward to that.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

September 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] Today I had the great pleasure of listening to Simon Roberts talk.  I first came across the work of Simon a few years ago when he produced his first book ‘Motherland’.  From then on I have kept a close eye on his projects which evolved from this.  I even managed to take part in his last one ‘The Election Project’ by submitting images for his public gallery which went on display earlier this year at Portcullis House in London.  I wrote a blog earlier in the year  about The Election Project which you can read about Here […]

  2. I too have motherland. I’m so glad I brought it.
    Do you have a favourite image from the book?
    What worries me about the photography ban
    at Portcullis House is a fear of all photographers
    seen as terrorists when were not. Also the attitude
    of the met police is more like the Moscow police
    (which I visited) Look what happened to a
    photojournalist in east London called David Hoffman
    arrested over a poster of david cameron
    with the word ‘wanker’. Google ‘wankergate’
    you’ll see what I mean.
    The police do abuse their power a lot!

    Chris Alford

    January 20, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    • I dont really have a favourite image from the book as such although I do like the twins on page 23. Simons work is very inspirational to me and I have met him on a couple of occasions. I do hope to get to Russia at some point.

      Dean O'Brien

      January 21, 2011 at 1:20 am


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