We the English
The work of Roberts, as with many projects of its kind requires time to appreciate as at first glance I find it easy to dismiss as an easy project to complete. What I mean by this is that his stance and distance from the subject is so safe, he could never be challenged by any onlookers that did not want to be photographed. However, later, looking at the pattern of the work and some of Stephen’s comments in his essay, I began to connect more with the photographer’s intention, which of course makes all of the difference.
As the work is considered a Survey of the British, not unlike Daniels bus project, I think that it works to give a general impression of how the British spend their so called leisure time and their relationship to nature. Form this point of view the images hold to the romantic vision, as highlighted, by painters of earlier centuries. I think that as documents, they work well also, to show us something of the English habits and customs, although the project is very clearly related to the environment and nature and how people spend time in it.
When I look at these photos it gives rise to a certain reactivity against Englishness and how the appears to be a passivity in the stance of many of the people photographed, an introverted gaze upon the introverted?