Thomas Joshua Cooper is one of the most celebrated and distinctive landscape photographers working anywhere in the world today. He was born in California in 1946 but has lived in Scotland for many years. Cooper is the founding head of photography at Glasgow School of Art but spends much of his life seeking out the edges of the world. Like artists such as Richard Long, and Hamish Fulton, Cooper is a traveller, a nomadic artist whose extraordinary photographs are made in series at significant points around the globe, most often at its extremities.
The capturing of any one image can involve days, weeks and months of preparation, arduous travel and considerable efforts to achieve. The locations are found on a map, tracked down and then photographed, each place the subject of a single negative taken with a weighty antique field camera. They are meditative, almost philosophical images, exquisitely printed by the artist in the 19th century manner with layers of silver and gold chloride. In each place the geography may not be readily identifiable, the image on cusp of dissolving into abstraction.
Between September 2019 and January 2020 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presented Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity, The World's Edge, an exhibition of 65 images marking the completion of Cooper's epic Atlas project. Over 32 years Cooper voyaged to the cardinal points of the continents fringing the Atlantic Basin, charting from pole to pole, and making photographs out to horizonless seas and over apparently limitless landscapes. As Danya Goodyear noted (in the New Yorker) 'In Cooper’s photographic epic about exploration, colonization, migration and homecoming, he is both narrator and protagonist'.
Cooper has made parallel projects to his wider travels, for example, Scattered Waters: Sources Streams Rivers (Ingleby, 2014) which chronicled his adopted homeland of Scotland through its rivers .