Thomas Joshua Cooper

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Thomas Joshua Cooper FRSE (born December 19, 1946) is an American photographer.[1] He is considered among the premier contemporary landscape photographers.[2]

Thomas Joshua Cooper
Born (1946-12-19) December 19, 1946 (age 76)
EducationHumboldt State University, University of New Mexico
Known forPhotography

Early life and education[edit]

Cooper studied art, philosophy and literature and received his bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California in 1969.[3] In 1972, he received his master’s of art in photography with honors from the University of New Mexico.[4][5]


Cooper was inspired by the works of the photographers of the f/64 group of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Ansel Adams. Cooper stated, "I'll live and die by the late works of Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, and I think Robert Frank is the most extraordinary living photographic picture-maker."[6][7]


Cooper's first solo show took place in 1971. He has had more than 95 solo exhibitions since then.[3][8] After teaching art and photography in a number of schools in California, Cooper moved to England.[5]

In 1982 he launched the Fine Art Photography programme at the Glasgow School of Art.[3] He is now retired.

Cooper loves being a photographer, but is frustrated by some of the vocabulary that is used in the field. He indicates, "I hate the words "snap", "shoot" and "take" when it comes to making photographs. Everything I do is very seriously built up. They are 'made' pictures."[6]

Not only a photographer, Cooper is a poet and has written haiku books.[citation needed] Most of them are inspired by nature and reflect his photography.[9]

In 2009 Cooper achieved a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography.[10]

Cooper has lived in Scotland since the 1980s[1] and he is represented by Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland.[7]

At the end of September, 2019, on the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Magellan's circumnavigation of the world, Cooper opened for the first time “The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: In an exhibition called 'The World's Edge' [1] comprising 65 large-scale and 75 8 x 10 black-and-white photographs, showcases Cooper’s The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity, The World’s Edge, and The Atlantic Basin Project, which he first embarked upon in 1987, to chart the Atlantic Basin from the extreme points of each north, south, east, and west coordinates. Open from 21 September until 2 February 2020 in the Resnick Pavilion.[11]

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 1970, John D. Phelen Award in Art and Literature .[4]
  • 1994, Major Artists Award, Scottish Arts Council, Edinburgh, Scotland [12]
  • 1999, Major Artist’s Award, Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico [13]
  • 2014, Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh[14][15]


Cooper’s works are held by over fifty[16] museums and public collections, among them:[2]


  1. ^ a b c Goodyear, Dana (2019-09-30). "A Photographer at the Ends of the Earth". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  2. ^ a b Everett, Deborah (2008) "Thomas Joshua Cooper (b. 1946), Cherokee Photographer" pp. 27-29 In Everett, Deborah and Zorn, Elayne (2008) Encyclopedia of Native American Artists Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, page 27, ISBN 978-0-313-33762-8
  3. ^ a b c "Events — Artist Talk: Thomas Joshua Cooper in Conversation with Michael Govan - Hauser & Wirth". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  4. ^ a b "Thomas Joshua Cooper" Archived 2010-04-14 at the Wayback Machine John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation biography
  5. ^ a b "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Thomas Joshua Cooper". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  6. ^ a b Benedictus, Leo (28 August 2008) "Thomas Joshua Cooper's best shot" The Guardian, an interview in the "My Best Shot" series
  7. ^ a b "Thomas Joshua Cooper | artnet". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Parrish Opens "Thomas Joshua Cooper: REFUGE," Creating a Trio of Solo Photography-Based Exhibitions". Hamptons Art Hub. 2019-05-03. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  9. ^ "Thomas Joshua Cooper | The Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, Scotland". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  10. ^ "Thomas Joshua Cooper". Guggenheim Foundation. Archived from the original on 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
  11. ^ "Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World's Edge | LACMA". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  12. ^ "James Kelly Contemporary" (PDF). Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  13. ^ "Thomas Joshua Cooper". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  14. ^ "Professor Thomas Joshua Cooper FRSE - The Royal Society of Edinburgh". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  15. ^ "Thomas Joshua Cooper Biography - Hyman Collection - British Photography". Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  16. ^ "About Thomas Joshua Cooper"[permanent dead link] Pace Wildenstein Gallery
  17. ^ "Selections from True: Photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  18. ^ Arnest, Mark (30 June 2002) "Denver Art Museum exhibit gives full exposure to rise of photography" The Gazette (Colorado Springs)
  19. ^ "Ritual Indication #3 (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  20. ^ "Artist Shop". Widewalls. Retrieved 2019-11-24.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cotter, Holland (28 June 1996) "Art in Review; Thomas Joshua Cooper" The New York Times
  • Cullen, Fintan and Morrison, John (editors) (2005) "A Shared Legacy: Essays on Irish and Scottish Art and Visual Culture Ashgate, Aldershot, Hants, England, ISBN 0-7546-0644-9
  • Govan, Michael and Morse, Rebecca (2019) Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World's Edge -ISBN 978-3-7913-5826-0
  • Yau, John (2006) Ojo de agua - Thomas Joshua Cooper(Exhibition Ojo de Agua - Eye of the Water, at Pace Wildenstein, 1 December 2006 - 13 January 2007) Pace Wildenstein Publications, New York, ISBN 1-930743-63-7
  • Thomas Joshua Cooper at the Scottish Parliament talking about his life as a photographer at an exhibit of two of his works as part of a series that explores the extremities of the landscape at the points of civilization that are located furthest north, west, south, and east on the map of Scotland.

External links[edit]