29 March 2010

Sheffield graduate uses art to engage public in politics

The Election Project

A University of Sheffield graduate, who has been selected by the House of Commons as the official photographer for the General Election, is calling on members of the public to contribute their own photographs of political activity to a national election project.

Simon Roberts, who graduated from the University with a degree in Human Geography in 1996, was commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art to document campaign activity in the run up to the 2010 General Election.

As part of the project, Simon is calling on members of the public to get involved and submit their own photographs relating to political activity in their local area leading up to and during the election. These photos will be published in an online gallery, with some selected to be displayed at the official exhibition in the House of Commons after the election.

Simon plans to travel the country in a motor home during the 3 weeks of canvassing, capturing the relationship between the politicians and the voting public, to provide a lasting and unique artistic response to the General Election.

The artwork will be Simon’s own interpretation and record of the General Election, based on special access to the election campaigns. His photographs will join the Parliamentary Art Collection in the House of Commons.

Simon’s previous work has included the ‘We English’ exhibition, which is currently on display at the National Media Museum in Bradford. The exhibition, which charts England, resulted from an English road trip in search of national identity and people at leisure. It gives a unique insight into people playing, relaxing and revelling in the country’s richly varied landscape.

Simon Roberts

Simon said: “This new project is giving members of the public a unique opportunity to be part of what is set to be the most photographed election in British History. The General Election is, by definition, a democratic process and we want people’s contributions to add to the collaborative and democratic dimension of the project.

“I’m thrilled to receive this commission and be able to play a role in documenting the election and I would like to encourage members of the public to also take part in this ambitious and exciting creative response to Britain’s political landscape.”

Professor Charles Pattie, a former tutor to Simon from the University’s Department of Geography, has contributed ideas to the project. Professor Pattie, who specialises in electoral Geography, has previously conducted research into political parties, party campaigning, citizenship and participation.

Professor Pattie said: “2010 will be one of the most important elections of recent years. Not only does it take place in the midst of unusually deep economic difficulties, but it also follows hard on the heels of scandals over MPs' expenses and the funding of political parties. It also presents the first realistic chance of a change in government since 1997. There are some anxieties about low levels of public involvement in politics, but this project will aim to engage the wider public in this year’s election battle.”

The public can submit their photos via the web, email or text using the links below.