Capturing the unexpected beauty of deserted sport courts
This is an edited excerpt from a new book called "Courts 02" by Ward Roberts, published by Éditions.
To look at the photographs of artist Ward Roberts is to experience again and again -- and still again -- how an image can unfold before you, how it can blossom and bloom, revealing the depth of its subject both in a single instant, as well as over time.
Since 2007, Roberts has focused his attention on documenting sport courts of all kinds -- basketball, tennis, to name only two -- which are carved into the overgrown urban landscape.
Having photographed over 100 courts thus far, Roberts captures these spaces to appear at once familiar and foreign, singular and resonant.
At first, your eye may be dazzled by his photographs' vibrant colors, exquisite compositions, and cinematic buoyancy. Look longer, and the images take on a ghostly quality, shape-shifting between the concrete and the abstract, pointing to the presence of a certain absence.
The brilliant irony of Roberts' ongoing "Courts" series is that it is so deeply rooted in the world -- so attentive and sensitive to the here and now -- that it achieves what can only be described as an otherworldly aura.
A reverent perspective
"Perfection is the enemy of greatness," Roberts likes to say, and his photographs, although impeccably composed prove just how true this is.
Look closely at the courts -- immerse yourself in the image -- and you'll find the flaws through which the photographs express their breath.
Stare at the vibrant colors of a row of bleachers to see how the paint is peeling, weathered by the sun and rain.
Notice how the perfectly engineered lines of a court are interrupted by a line of laundry. The cracks in the pavement, a balding field of grass, clothes hung in windows, a hoop-less backboard: signs of life are everywhere inside these dazzling places, despite the fact that there are no bodies on view.
As all iconic images inevitably do, Roberts' "Courts" have now become a force of their own, circulating the world with terrific velocity via the rushing slipstream of the Internet, gathering momentum and making their mark upon the global eye.
His work has brought together a growing community of followers, with whom he feels a humble sense of connection.
This is, in a sense, the most beautiful reflection of the essence of what makes his images so riveting, his art so powerful: he gives life to the spaces of photography, and photography to the spaces of life.