“The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity”—this is the 32-year long photo project of landscape photographer Tomas Joshua Cooper. In total, this photo project encompasses 700 black and white photographs Cooper has taken from remote, all-but-forgotten landscapes with harsh conditions across five different continents. It’s a stunning look at the “emptiness and extremity” of these select parts of the world.

The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity | Thomas Joshua Cooper

Cooper recently participated in an interview with The New Yorker where he discussed this incredible photo project.

“I thought maybe I could learn something by standing on the continental edges of Western civilization and trying to imagine, with my back to the land, what happened when the carriers of the culture went over the edge of the map.” Delving a little deeper, Cooper also told The New Yorker, “Emptiness and extremity are what I was searching for, with the firm belief that it’d kill me or transform me.”

Searching for Landscapes with No Clear Escape

In this photo project, Cooper preferred to look for landscapes where there was no clear escape from. He didn’t want to show the pictures of ‘hope on the horizon’, but rather the grim conditions of the land. His friend and long-time advocate, Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) told The New Yorker, “He is part of the conceptual-art tradition of artists traversing space to create sculpture. He is also one of the greatest formal photographers. He captures the motion of the environment, which is near-impossible to do.”

Recently, Cooper’s ‘Atlas’ exhibition had its debut at LACMA, titled ‘The World’s Edge’, which he requested fall on the date of the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s trip-around-the-globe departure. Fitting for a photographer like Cooper, who has always looked to more of a nomadic lifestyle.

The Nomadic Life of a Photographer

Cooper has written about his travels with ‘Atlas’, stating, “In making the Atlas pictures, I may unintentionally become the first person in the world to circumnavigate the boundless coastal perimeter of land-surfaces harbouring the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And he might just be right! So far, he’s lead quite an interesting life. He’s been shot at, search, and detained, fallen from high peaks, hunted leopard seals, FALLEN INTO QUICKSAND—all the while, photographing and documenting his experience.

“I can’t do anything but make things,” Cooper told The New Yorker. His goal with Atlas was to pursue his vision—no matter the expense, to only work outdoors, and to use only single exposure for every place he went. The result is truly a masterpiece in the art of photography.

We highly recommend reading the full article on The New Yorker’s website. It’s packed with incredible, in-depth information into the life of Thomas Joshua Cooper. At 73 years of age, this landscape photographer shows no signs of stopping and we can’t wait to see what he brings us next!

[Related Reading: Sea Captain Captures Nat Geo Worthy Travel and Landscape Portraits | Featured Artist Interview with Zay Yar Lin]