The global award in photography and sustainability

Thomas Joshua Cooper

I have, since 1968, stuck to vows made in a moment of epiphany to make art only with my 1898 AGFA camera, to only make images outdoors, and to only ever make one image in any one place. With this singular and focused body of work, I have come to be regarded as one of the world’s important landscape artists. The World’s Edge – The Atlantic Basin Project is an ambitious mission, begun nearly twenty years ago, to photographically ‘map’ the extremities of the lands and islands of all five continents that surround the entire Atlantic Ocean.

The images of water encapsulate both the otherworldliness and the vital reality of the sea: the ethereal and frightening power of water – light, shadow, movement, depth, and volume. Most of these locations are difficult to reach; the border between man’s foothold on earth and the unknown depths of the substance making up the vast majority of the world. Some places are endangered – with the delicate balance of the planet disrupted can these places be sustained? My project is a subtle, aesthetic and almost abstract meditation on the process of globalization, and the wandering transoceanic evolution of Western culture, and the human stories wrapped up in this grand sweep. Water is an element that binds us all, a vital necessity, a force with the power of affecting life and death. Growing up in the wilderness I learned the visceral connection between land and identity, as well as the tendency of the human eye to overlay what it surveys with stories and memories. When I travel to the edges of land, where water is all that lies ahead, these stories are clearly audible. My pictures offer an opportunity to meditate upon the grandeur of history and are an analogy for the particularity and sameness of our experience, especially in this age of increasing homogeneity; when the sustainability of our existence is everyone’s concern.

Thomas Joshua Cooper