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 around the Web

Glasgow School of Art

Artworks



Above 79 Degrees North, Midway up the East Coast of Ellesmere Island—Dobbin Bay at Nares Strait, Ellesmere Island,

Above 79 Degrees North, Midway up the East Coast of Ellesmere Island—Dobbin Bay at Nares Strait, Ellesmere Island, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Nunavut, Canada (2013, printed 2016)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Polar Bear Shelter, Late Afternoon—The Fisher Strait at the Evans Strait, Cape Pembroke, Coats Island, Nunavut, Canada

Polar Bear Shelter, Late Afternoon—The Fisher Strait at the Evans Strait, Cape Pembroke, Coats Island, Nunavut, Canada (2013, printed 2017)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Center of the Canadian Shield—Hudson Strait, Cape Wolstenholme, Ungava Peninsula, Quebec, Canada

Center of the Canadian Shield—Hudson Strait, Cape Wolstenholme, Ungava Peninsula, Quebec, Canada

The Northmost point of the Ungava Peninsula and in the centre of the Canadian Shield. The Canadian Shield is a large area of exposed Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks that form the ancient core of the North American continent. It is the landmass that starts on the north shores of the Great Lakes and continues round Hudson Bay unto the Arctic Circle. (2013, printed 2016)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Wandering, from One Circle to Another, Part Two—Midday Sun, Looking toward the Deep South—The Antarctic Circle

The Wandering, from One Circle to Another, Part Two—Midday Sun, Looking toward the Deep South—The Antarctic Circle, Crystal Sound, Bragg Island, Biscoe Islands, Graham Land, Antarctica, 66°29.0´ S (2008)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fleeing from a Force-Eight Gale—Looking West at the South Pacific Ocean from the Strait of Magellan

Fleeing from a Force-Eight Gale—Looking West at the South Pacific Ocean from the Strait of Magellan, Observation Island, Looking toward Cabo Pilar and Isla Desolación, the SouthwestMost Point of All South America (2006)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

A Force-Eight Gale, Storm Drenched—The Strait of Magellan, Cabo Froward, the Península de Brunswick

A Force-Eight Gale, Storm Drenched—The Strait of Magellan, Cabo Froward, the Península de Brunswick, Magallanes, Chile, the SouthMost Point of Continental South America (2006)

Selenium and gold-toned chlorobromide gelatin silver print

Secondary support: 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.16 cm)

Edition: 1 of 2

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"Erasure"—The Beginning of Conquest and Destruction, Native America Loses the European Cultural Battle—The Gulf of Mexico

“Erasure”—The Beginning of Conquest and Destruction, Native America Loses the European Cultural Battle—The Gulf of Mexico, Playa de Chalchihuecan, Veracruz, Mexico

One of the several proposed Mexican landing sites for Hernan Cortes' invading Spanish army. Here began the conquest of Mexico and the destruction of Monteczuma II and the Aztec Empire, February 1519. (2007, printed 2017)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fading Moonlight, Looking toward the Tropic of Cancer—The Gulf of Mexico, Tepehuaje, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Fading Moonlight, Looking toward the Tropic of Cancer—The Gulf of Mexico, Tepehuaje, Tamaulipas, Mexico (2007, printed 2015)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Looking Back toward The Old World—The North Entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Cape Whittle, Île du Lac, Quebec, Canada

Looking Back toward The Old World—The North Entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Cape Whittle, Île du Lac, Quebec, Canada (2014, printed 2015

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Cloud Horizon—The Strait of Río and the North Atlantic Ocean, La Punta, Mirador del Río and Punta Fariones, the North‑Most Point of the Isle of Lanzarote, the Canary Islands, Spain

Cloud Horizon—The Strait of Río and the North Atlantic Ocean, La Punta, Mirador del Río and Punta Fariones, the NorthMost Point of the Isle of Lanzarote, the Canary Islands, Spain (2002, printed 2014)

Recipient: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


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