Thomas Joshua Cooper (b. 1946, California) received his bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California in 1969. In 1972, he received his master’s in photography from the University of New Mexico. He resides in Glasgow, Scotland, where he founded the Fine Art Photography Department at the Glasgow School of Art in 1982, which he still leads. His work is in numerous institutional collections, such as the Art Institute of Chicago; the Denver Art Museum; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Tate Gallery, London; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 2009 Cooper received the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography. He is represented by Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh.
For nearly forty-five years, Thomas Joshua Cooper (b. 1946) has been photographing the landscape. His practice is patient. The locations he chooses to document often lie at the very perimeter of the land, requiring months of planning and intensive travel. Inspired by the f/64 group active in the 30s and 40s, he uses an 1898 Agfa box camera, carefully capturing the light in long exposures. For Cooper, making pictures is as much about the internal experience of knowing a place as the external experience of seeing it.
Like artists such as Richard Long, and Hamish Fulton, Cooper is a traveller, a nomadic artist whose extraordinary photographs are made in series at significant points around the globe, most often at its extremities. For the series Drowned Trees—A Mississippi River Tree Line (2010/14), the artist traveled the country’s longest north-south waterway to explore the region’s myths, stories, and rituals. These pictures are personal for Cooper. Born in San Francisco to a Cherokee father and an Anglo-American mother, he made the journey to confront the land his family once occupied. A westward-looking view from the start of the Trail of Tears marks the exile of the Native Americans as part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Cooper understands the connection between land and identity. As the land meets the water in his photographs, so do the spirits of the region rise to the surface.