Image: Simon Roberts, feature 'My Best Shot.' The Guardian

Simon Roberts, feature 'My Best Shot.' The Guardian

"Throughout the recession, I had been photographing the English landscape, exploring how it fitted with ideas of national character. Then I was asked to be the official photographer of the 2010 general election.

My pitch to the International Olympic Committee was to do something a bit different for the London Games: to stand back, to always have an elevated view, and to gain more of a perspective. I was the only "art photographer" to be granted access. These events are usually recorded close-up: you can spot the sports photographers with their big lenses in this picture.

The logistics were exhausting: I had to get to places that aren't normally available to photographers. As the Games were heavily controlled, this proved tricky. Tripods were banned for safety reasons - I had to strap my camera on to a spectator's seat. This shot was taken in Greenwich Park, where the equestrian events were held. It captures Marcus Ehning from Germany in the individual jumping: he came 12th overall.

The venue was the ultimate example of London 2012 creating a tableau of the city. Everything in this frame has a certain connotation, from the architectural importance of Queen's House in the centre, to the imperial significance of the Cutty Sark tea clipper in the distance; further away, Canary Wharf symbolises the changing economic fortunes of the city. The print is 2m across, so when it's exhibited, you can see all the other details - such as the mini versions of Stonehenge, the Magna Carta, Nelson's column and Big Ben decorating each jump. All these elements come together to provide a theatrical presentation of the history of Britain. The image itself looks painterly and unreal, like an extreme digital composition, while overhead there's a sinister black blob: an eye-in-the-sky TV camera reminding us that this whole event is actually a stage set.

As this shot attests, there's no doubt the Olympics were a highly successful advert for Britain, although the question remains as to what their legacy will be. I feel lucky to have experienced them at close hand. Like everybody, I wasn't sure what they would be like - and they were extraordinary."

Simon Roberts

Interview by Sarah Phillips. This image features in Landmark: The Fields of Photography, at Somerset House, London WC2, until 28 April.

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