Official election artist wants voters to get involved

12 April 2010

Simon Roberts, the official election artist, commissioned by the Commons Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, today starts his tour of the UK to document campaign activity during the 2010 general election.

Simon, the first photographer to be selected for the election commission, will be touring the country for the next three weeks by motor-home, equipped with his tripod and traditional 5"x4" plate camera.

First stop, Bethnal Green and Bow

He is making his first stop in Bethnal Green and Bow, currently held by the Respect party, before moving east to Harlow, a marginal seat with a Labour majority of just 97 votes, then off towards the Fenland communities around Cambridgeshire.

Simon commented:

"I am very excited to be setting off in my own battle bus to start the commission. I am interested in seeking out the political theatre that temporarily transforms our urban and rural landscape during the period of electioneering.

"I’ll be looking not just at the three main parties,at big staged events, but also at lesser-known hopefuls, and the way potential voters are interacting with them."

Getting the voters involved

As part of the project Simon is also asking voters to get involved, by sending in photographs about political activity in their local area during the campaign.

Their photographs are being published on an online gallery, and some will be chosen for the official exhibition, alongside Simon’s work, in the House of Commons after the election.

Simon says:

"We already have a large number of illuminating, intriguing and humorous images being uploaded to the election project web site.

"I hope that by using photographs taken by the public, on digital cameras or mobile phones, I can create an alternative photographic vision alongside my own, captured via the more traditional means of my plate camera.

"I am today appealing to the public to please keep sending their images in! By documenting local political experiences, you will be contributing to an archive of photographs that capture the complexity of Britain’s political landscape in 2010."

Relationship between politicans and voters

Simon’s project will centre on the relationship between the politicians canvassing and the voting public with images from battle-buses and village greens to polling stations and shopping centres.

There have been two previous election commissions: Jonathan Yeo’s Proportional representation, a series of three portraits of the party leaders painted for the 2001 General Election; and David Godbold's Forward not backward, a series of eighteen drawings made for the 2005 General Election.

Works of Art Committee Chairman, Hugo Swire, commented:

"Since the days of Hogarth, elections have provided artists with a rich source of inspiration. This is the first time we have commissioned a photographer to follow the election and we are therefore very excited about what Simon Roberts is going to produce. Getting the public involved in the project also emphasises the democratic process Simon is documenting."

Image: John Giles/PA Images

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