Melbourne-born, Brooklyn-based photographer Ward Roberts has released a sequel to his 2012 series of sports courts images. Courts 02 is a 76-page, pastel-hued documentation of empty tennis and basketball courts the artist photographed over the past four years in Hong Kong, Bermuda, Hawaii, New York and Melbourne.
“It wasn't a choice that was made consciously … I was drawn to sporting courts when I was younger,” Roberts says. His images are at once delicate and dense, serene and striking. Each photograph is empty of human presence, filled instead with layers of painterly colour – not unlike the phases of pigment in a Rothko colour-field painting, or a James Turrell light installation. As much as Courts 02 is an aesthetically tuned compilation of city sports yards, it is also a study in colour gradients, and a narrative about isolated urban spaces. The courts he captures are in washed-out, chalky jade, rust and cobalt blue, and framed by desolate architecture. While deeply rooted in an urban world, the series possesses an otherworldliness, devoid of any clear references to specific times or places.
As for how Roberts achieves the images’ distinctive hue, he says, “I'm very specific about the time of year I shoot, and these seasonal differences in light help achieve the desired mood in the images. In Hong Kong, the softness of the images is helped by the pollution in the air which softens the light and colours.”
“The first Courts series was more about architecture,” Roberts adds. “For the second series I had two months in Hong Kong … I did everything I could to try to expand the series as much as possible. I was looking for diversity. Different colours, interesting architecture or landscaping. Something distinctive. Something fascinating to look at.”
Courts 02 is available through Edition Publishing.