Claire Cooper is what I would describe as a photographer’s photographer in that her work propagates a concept. She does not photograph for an audience; the images she works with are not staged for the camera, they are rather “singular observations, captured in available light”. Her practice of “contemplating the possibilities of unobserved and often unremarkable subjects” is a way of exploring life.
Looking at Sonia (2014) I’m struck by the juxtaposition of the subject’s outstretched leg crossing the vertical lines of the trees. This doesn‘t concern her though. She simply let Sonia, a yoga teacher, pose in a way that felt natural to her. It is important to Claire to depict a person in a surrounding that’s part of them. This blurs the boundaries between artist and subject, inviting her subjects to collaborate in the artistic process.
Still working in analogue Claire thrives in “not knowing the alchemy of what you’ve got till the negatives are processed.” It slows the process down and this can only be a good thing we both agree because every art form has to evolve slowly.
"My work is about where I am now as a person…my subjects fit with how I’m evolving as a person…the camera is a tool for interacting with those people, places and events.”
The camera completes the Gestalt.
Having grown up in rural East Yorkshire (in a freezing cold house with cow shit everywhere outside) and going on to study in Newcastle and Sunderland, Claire struggles to have an artistic relationship with ‘sanitised York’ where she now lives. So out she heads to Potterrick Carr and photographs murmurations of Starlings, in Hull she focuses on beaten up, unused industrial units, in Sunderland a derelict and ramshackle sun bed shop, and in Goole ethereal Yorkshire flags draped from the roof of the indoor market. Time and again she returns to the landscape of her past as if she finds a safety net in these reflections of unexceptional beauty. And then there are the blurred shots looking out of windows, taken from behind the glass. This time though she immediately offers the inescapable psycho-analysis.
If in every medium there is a dichotomy between the aesthetic and the conceptual the photography of Claire Cooper opens up a healthy dialogue between the two. And whilst Claire doesn’t meditate upon the chocolate box beauty of York, what she can provide the York art scene with is remarkable.