Ward Roberts’ colorful basketball court photographs look like playgrounds from after the apocalypse. I found them on Tumblr and couldn’t get enough.
The tropical public spaces that Ward records are abandoned. No people or players. The empty courts with neatly painted baselines have this mix of careful human attention to detail and impersonal detachment. It’s totally spooky and rad.
I wanted to see more, but I had no idea who the photographer was. Nobody gave any attribution. So I went down a deep Tumblr rabbit hole to find their source… No luck. Only after some hardcore reverse-Google-Image-searching did Ward Roberts’ name finally pop-up.
I discovered that Ward’s court photographs are showing right now in NYC’s new TUNICA gallery, so I got in touch to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on Tumblr.
BC: As an artist, how do you feel about so many of your photos floating around the Internet?
WR: Whether you like it or not, it can be hard to keep track of where images go. Especially with Tumblr and Pinterest. I suppose it doesn’t anger me too much because credit tends to have a way of making it back to me. It’s been interesting with meeting people for the first time and hearing they’ve previous come across my photographs…
BC: But is this right? Or is that question comically pointless to ask?
WR: Of course, I always prefer to have my name and website attached to the work. But there has always been the concern of commercial use without the artists consent. With this in consideration, I’ve copyrighted all my photographs.
BC: With that said, what do you think is the net effect of Tumblr for photographers, at the end of the day?
WR: I have to think of it as positive, becasue I’ve been presented with a number of opportunities due to exposure online. Especially when you reside on the other side of the world, in Australia, it makes it possible to reach a world-wide audience.
BC: What’s the origin story of your court photographs?
WR: The idea started when I looked back on my childhood. I’d often spend a lot of time playing tennis, soccer, and basketball with friends. When it comes to the visual style of the courts, I find myself drawn to colors that interact with each other. That and the unique architecture that sometimes surround these courts.
BC: So… where is everybody?
WR: The simple answer is that there really wasn’t anyone using the courts when I photographed them. There was actually a small handful of photographs that included people, but I found the images to be much less engaging.
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