National Maritime Museum
Thomas Joshua Cooper is one of the world’s leading contemporary fine art photographers. He is the Head of Photography at Glasgow School of Art, where he founded the Fine Art Photography department in 1982. Cooper works with analogue techniques, using an 1898 wooden large-format field camera, to capture single shots of his subjects, later developed in the darkroom. These are then printed in limited selenium-toned silver gelatin print editions, in the manner of Victorian photographers. Much of his practice takes Cooper to the furthermost edges of continents, mapping the extremities of land.
Together with the adventurous, documentary and exploratory nature of his approach, the painterly qualities of his photographs – the softened effect achieved through the long exposures he privileges – place his seascapes within the tradition of the romantic sublime. His ongoing series exploring the meridians starts with this piece, made at Faro Orchillo, Punta Orchillo on the Isle of El Hierro, the westernmost point of the Canary Islands. This was the original site of the 0 degrees Longitude Meridian, the end of the world as designated by the ancient geographer Ptolemy. It is an evocative commentary on both the arbitrariness and fluidity of determining the world’s meridians, which resonates powerfully with the history of Royal Museums Greenwich’s site and collections. Cooper’s work is particularly fitting for Royal Museums Greenwich, not least for his focus on the world’s oceans and the meridians, but also for his use of photographic processes, which speak to a world-class collection of historic photographs of maritime subjects.
Thomas Joshua Cooper’s (b. 1946, San Francisco, USA) photographs have featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including Govan Old Parish Church and Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow (2015); Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh touring to Fleming Collection, London (2014); The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (2014) and John Hansard Gallery, Sea City Museum, Southampton (2013). Group exhibitions include Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (2013); Hayward Touring: Southampton Art Gallery, Southampton (2013).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society with the support of the American Friends of the Royal Museums