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Hamptons Life

May 6, 2019 10:21 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Photography Of Thomas Joshua Cooper On View At The Parrish

Thomas Joshua Cooper (American, born 1946).
May 7, 2019 11:07 AM

Throughout his career, Thomas Joshua Cooper has been preoccupied with water as a focal point for his abiding fascination with the landscape, historical and cultural geography, cartography, and the problems of picture-making. “Thomas Joshua Cooper: Refuge,” a new exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, features more than 49 photographs by the artist, all of which were made with his Agfa Ansco 5” x 7″ plate field camera made in 1898 in Binghamton. The show is anchored by the 20 images Mr. Cooper made along the coastal and inland waterways and interior landscapes throughout the East End during his 10-day sojourn to the area in May 2016.

Waterways figure prominently in Mr. Cooper’s work, and in addition to focusing on the East End the work on view is a precise selection of photographs made over the course of several years at sites along the Hudson River as it passes through Essex, Warren, Saratoga, Rensselaer, and Dutchess counties. Also on exhibit are photographs made in Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, which Cooper includes to emphasize his notion of refuge, immigration and settlement.

Mr. Cooper, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, is of Cherokee descent on his father’s side. Born in San Francisco in 1946, he grew up on Indian reservations throughout the Western United States. The sites he selected for his images share specific importance to both Native Americans and immigrants. Each has been a significant socio-economic driver, nurturing important artist communities that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The East End’s Conscience Point and a sacred site on the Shinnecock Reservation are both represented in the Parrish exhibit.

Cooper seeks out the edges of the world to make his images. His travels are equal parts extreme exploration and technical adroitness, as he pushes both his own physical limits and the technical capabilities of his medium. His photographs can involve arduous travel and considerable physical effort, and days, weeks, or months of preparation to achieve. Each location is the subject of a single negative taken with a Agfa Ansco 5 x 7″ plate field camera made in 1898 in Binghamton, New York. Cooper has been singularly devoted to this camera since 1968. Once an exposure is made in the field, the artist works in the dark room meticulously hand-printing and toning his photographs. The resulting pictures contain almost transcendental dark and sumptuous tones, granular in detail yet scaled in the scope of a grand vista.

“Thomas Joshua Cooper: Refuge” runs through July 28 at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. For more information visit parrishart.org.

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