Ward Roberts: The States Project: New York
Brooklyn based photographer Ward Roberts’ photos explores themes of void and isolation. In his series Courts, he depicts athletic stages that are typically full of life and activity, but through his lens are revealed as absent of all human activity: no figures, no sports related items, no trash, and no crowds of people cheering on their favorite teams. There is a distinct silence created in his images that play to a specific loneliness. Shot all over the world, including Honk Kong, Bermuda, and New York City, Roberts unifies the images through his palette and his unique sense of architecture.
Even in his series of portraits, O, Roberts’ palette and compositions seem to create an absolute isolation: a single nude portrait against the gradient of the setting sun. Interestingly, when sitting down with Roberts to speak about this work, he noted his interest in exploring connectedness — we all share the setting sun, and each figure is rendered without context and is surrounded only by the atmosphere that sustains us with the air we need to breathe.
Ward Roberts is a conceptual artist who creates exquisitely composed photographs, drawing on themes such as loneliness and isolation in the modern world.
The young artist’s perspective is fresh and engaging. The sophisticated aesthetic prevents his work from being downbeat in spite of the fact that many of his compositions are empty landscapes. Rather, there is an innate energy at the core of his work, one that is harnessed and marshaled into every detail of the composition. Roberts’ work is in many ways a rebuttal of the prevailing trend of urban, gritty style contemporary photography. There is a dichotomy at play in his fine art images, which simultaneously recall the mastery of medium and calculated patience of remote academic painters, yet his subjects and presentation feel completely new and contemporary.
Ward is currently based in New York.
The Courts series is a tribute to Robert’s childhood spent in Hong Kong, playing outside with children of varying cultures. It was there he learned that youth transcends language; that contradictions can be unifying. In his soulful photographs, the pastel hues contradict the hard, concrete composition. The cramped, vertical apartment blocks are pitted against vast, empty spaces. Returning to a place with fondness can portend disappointment, and, in this instance, the laughing children of Robert’s youth are nowhere to be seen. There is a sense of the lives of the new inhabitants being lived indoors, and memories fading.
“What connects everyone, from males, females, the sick, healthy, rich and poor, are the sky and oxygen.” – Ward Roberts
The men and women in these photographic portraits are as robust, white and wistful as the subjects of turn of the century paintings, yet the modernity is evident. Taken during a special slice of summertime in Victoria, when the sky becomes pastel, just after the sun drops below the horizon, for a fleeting fifteen minutes; two of the photographs depict the absence of people. Instead, they show stars that are on the verge of shining. We are encouraged to find elements within the world that are connecting points: the source of all life.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
Text + Image: Krista Svalbonas: DisplacementJuly 28th, 2021
Text + Image Ryan Bakerink: If I Knew Then…July 26th, 2021
Struck by Light: What is a 21st Century photograph?July 25th, 2021
The 2021 Paula Riff Award: Katie ShapiroJuly 23rd, 2021