Thomas Joshua Cooper

photo of Thomas Joshua Cooper

“There are no birds, bugs or animals on the Polar Ice Shelf. Nothing you can see. Just the wind and the sound of ice cracking.”—Thomas Joshua Cooper

Thomas Joshua Cooper has spent the last 20-plus years traversing the Atlantic Basin to “make his pictures.” His “atlas” project began in 1989 as a means of creating a photographic dialogue between the old world and the new. From his home in Scotland to the southern-most point of the African continent, to the edges of Antarctica and up to the top of South America, Cooper has chartered boats, planes, helicopters, and even rode a nuclear powered icebreaker to document important geographical and historical points. Cooper may be the first person ever to reach all of the extremities of the Atlantic Basin and may certainly be the last as up to 35 percent of the sites he has visited will no longer exist in 15 years due to rising sea levels.

In 2007, he ventured to the North Pole, where he took images of pure whiteness, wanting to “convey the experience of cold and white while removing any objects or points of reference.” Cooper traditionally eliminates the horizon from his camera frame as he wants to “remove ease and create an interior space” for the viewer. Later he spent 90 days on a 50-foot boat in the Antarctic visiting both known and unknown places on the map, along the way discovering an uncharted island that he subsequently was able to name after his wife, Catherine. And, while stationed on land at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, he worked in negative 41 degrees with a wind chill of 77 below to make his image The Polar Plateau: The South Pole, Antarctica, 2007-2008, 90°. Despite being equipped with special film for below freezing temperatures, Cooper’s photo bears witness to the extreme weather conditions by way of a random black jagged line where the negative cracked.

Since he began his career on April Fool’s Day in 1969, Cooper has used just one camera, an 1898 wooden field camera, that can be alternatively perilous to carry along high sea cliffs or a life saver, as when he was trapped in quicksand. From the start, he promised himself to only take pictures outdoors and to only make one exposure per photograph.

Born in San Francisco in 1946, he studied art, philosophy, and literature at Humboldt State University before completing his Masters of Art in Photography at the University of New Mexico in 1972. His first solo show was held in 1971, and since then, he has been the subject of over 95 solo exhibitions throughout the world. Cooper’s work has also been included in over 80 group exhibitions. Thomas Joshua Cooper has received numerous awards including a Photography Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1978) and, most recently, a John Simon Guggenheim Award (2009).  In 2010, Cooper was the first recipient of the Lannan Visual Arts Award.

Cooper’s photographs can be found in over 50 public collections worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago; The J. Paul Getty Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth; Nimes Museum of Contemporary Art, France; The Polaroid Collection, Frankfurt; Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; The Tate Gallery, London; and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Lannan Foundation holds the single largest collection of Thomas Cooper’s work. Cooper is the founding head of photography at the Glasgow School of Art.

Recently, Cooper has had exhibitions at PaceWildenstein, New York (solo) (2006-2007); Unosunove Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy (solo)(2007); Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo, Spain (2008); the Rubicon Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (2008-2009); the Travelling Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2008-2009); Haunch of Venison, UK (solo)(2009); the Lillie Art Gallery, Milngavie, Scotland (2009); GMG Gallery, Moscow, Russia (2009); Bafa Foto, Geneva, Switzerland (2009); the Lannan Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico (solo)(2009); the Glasgow School of Art (solo) (2011) and the Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (solo)(2014).

The Lannan Foundation made a grant to Radius Books in support of Cooper’s book, Thomas Joshua Cooper: Shoshone Falls and also to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in 2012 in support of the presentation of Cooper’s Shoshone Falls photographs.

Thomas Joshua Cooper elsewhere on Lannan.org

Selections from True: Photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper , (Art)
Sojourns: Photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper , (Art)
Thomas Joshua Cooper , (Residency)
Thomas Joshua Cooper , (Bios)
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Shoshone Falls Catalogue , (Art)
Transparent: Peter Alexander. Subhankar Banerjee. Uta Barth. Thomas Joshua Cooper. et al , (Art)
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Carry Me , (Art)
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Shoshone Falls Exhibition Sun Valley Center for the Arts, ID , (Art)

Thomas Joshua Cooper Podcasts

Thomas Joshua Cooper: Carry Me Gallery Tour – Audio

Thomas Joshua Cooper around the Web

Glasgow School of Art

Artworks



Looking towards Manhattan and Long Island, 2016/2017

2016/2017

Size: 30 x 40 inches

Recipient: Parrish Art Museum

Gardiner's Bay, Orient Point

Gardiner's Bay, Orient Point, 2016/2017

Size: 30 x 40 inches

Recipient: Parrish Art Museum

Soaking-Wet Snowfall—The South Atlantic Ocean and the Argentine Sea, Cabo del Espíritu Santo

Soaking-Wet Snowfall—The South Atlantic Ocean and the Argentine Sea, Cabo del Espíritu Santo, the NortheastMost Point of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, on the Border between Chile and Argentina (2006)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The World’s Edge, Remembering Magellan, Midnight—The North Atlantic Ocean, Five Capes, Cabo de São Vicente, Portugal

The World’s Edge, Remembering Magellan, Midnight—The North Atlantic Ocean, Five Capes, Cabo de São Vicente, Portugal, the Southwest-Most Point of Continental Europe (1994)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The World's Edge, Remembering Magellan-The Atlantic Ocean, Five Capes-Portugal, 1994-Cabo Carvoeiro

The World's Edge, Remembering Magellan-The Atlantic Ocean, Five Capes-Portugal, 1994-Cabo Carvoeiro (1994)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

An Indication Piece—The North Atlantic Ocean, Signal Hill, near St. John’s, the Isle of Newfoundland, Canada

An Indication Piece—The North Atlantic Ocean, Signal Hill, near St. John’s, the Isle of Newfoundland, Canada

The site where Guglielmo Marconi received his first transatlantic wireless cable message from his Poldhu Wireless Station in Cornwall, England. The message in Morse Code read the letter 's'. It’s the week of the spring equinox. (1998, printed 2015)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

last light, shifting ice, sudden danger—Gerlache Strait at Orléans Strait, Looking at Cape Herschel

last light, shifting ice, sudden danger—Gerlache Strait at Orléans Strait, Looking at Cape Herschel from “LISA” Rock, Davis Coast, Graham Land, the Antarctic Peninsula, 

Antarctica, 64°04´ S

“LISA" Rock, Laura-Indigo-Sophie-Alice Rock, is newly charted and named, 64° 02.85' S / 60°59.85' W (2008)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"The Door"—The Strait of Gibraltar, Cape Malabata, Morocco

“The Door”—The Strait of Gibraltar, Cape Malabata, Morocco (2003, printed 2018)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

North! The First Landing Site, Afternoon Drifting Fog, the Spring Equinoctial Ice Flow—The North Atlantic Ocean, L'Anse aux Meadows Natural Historic Site

North! The First Landing Site, Afternoon Drifting Fog, the Spring Equinoctial Ice Flow—The North Atlantic Ocean, L’Anse aux Meadows Natural Historic Site, the Northern Peninsula, the NorthMost Point of the Isle of Newfoundland and the Site of the First Known European Contact with The New World, Canada

In 1000 CE, Leif Erikson sailed from Greenland. He reached this site and over-wintered here for at least one season. (1998, printed 2015)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Early Morning—The Arctic Circle, the Davis Strait, Cape Dyer, the Cumberland Peninsula, the East‑Most Point of Baffin Island

Early Morning—The Arctic Circle, the Davis Strait, Cape Dyer, the Cumberland Peninsula, the EastMost Point of Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada (2013, printed 2016)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art