It’s likely that Thomas Joshua Cooper will draw parallels with Ansel Adams – after all, they are both black and white landscape photographers. Yet their works are very different; Adams presents the vastness and majesty of nature while Cooper prefers small photographs that capture the detailed minutiae.
Cooper masterfully uses contrast to draw out details within his works – the white bark of a fallen tree against a forest draws the eye while a black cube with its straight edges in a field has an almost spiritual feel to it. By deliberately darkening his works he makes the viewer question what they are seeing – is the bottom half of a photograph a reflection off the water or the continuation of tree trunks downwards?
Even when capturing large scale scenery, Cooper’s use of small prints and attention to detail make his photographs appear claustrophobic. A valley which is at least 100m across in reality, looks narrow and restrictive. There is often the sense that he’s teasing us by showing only a part of the landscape and leaving it to the viewers’ imagination to determine what lies beyond the frame.
Rather than traditional landscape photography, Cooper is more interested in the mystery of nature and our interaction with it. The result is a highly stylised and meditative exhibition of works where each minute of examination reveals more detail. It’s a fascinating portfolio that we thoroughly enjoyed exploring.
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Messages is on display at Haunch of Venison, 51 Eastcastle St, W1W 8EB until 28 March. Admission is free.
The excellent Ansel Adams exhibition is still on at the National Maritime Museum until 28 April.