You might think that photographing over 100 sport courts would get monotonous, but for artist Ward Roberts, it's a passion project. The photographer has traveled the world, playing urban explorer in foreign cityscapes to find and capture the simple symmetry and surreal beauty of pastel-colored basketball, tennis, and paved soccer courts. In 2012, Roberts released the book Courts 01, his first collection of these pale, architecturally dazzling images. Not content to let the series end there, he's since traveled to Hong Kong, New York, Melbourne, Hawaii, and Bermuda for his second book, Courts 02.
In Hong Kong, where the majority of the work was shot, Roberts tracked down courts on top of parking garages and on school rooftops ("The colors and architecture are very powerful there," Roberts says). In New York, he found courts carved into neighborhood street corners where kids play after school.
No matter the location, the pictures all quietly nod to humanity—to pastimes that transcend culture and language. And yet, Roberts's images are completely devoid of people. "I try to be the voice of silence," he says. In so doing, the images seem at once familiar and unfamiliar.
Born in Melbourne but raised in Hong Kong, Roberts always used sports as a way to make new friends. "For me, it was the most important way of meeting people," he says. "I've traveled quite a bit since then and have found that sports is a universal language."
Homing in on the human urge to connect, Roberts has created a series that is about much more than uniform pictures of vacant, dreamy spaces. Look closely and you'll notice a discarded ball or water bottle, a gate left open, scuff marks on the court. "I like human qualities in everything I create," Roberts explains. "The photos give the impression that someone was there. You just need to look a little closer to find the imperfections."
Now, get a look inside the new book!
Explore photographer Ward Roberts's ethereal world of empty tennis and basketball courts in Courts 02, available now! Order your copy at editions-publishing.com.