Thursday, February 10, 2011

An evening with Paul Graham


Tuesday night I went to a Photography lecture at the California College of the Arts. The speaker was the British photographer Paul Graham.
Paul Graham (1956) is a well-known artist who started color photography at a time when fine art Photography was all about black & white.  As an act of rebellion because -as he said- he was a ‘punk’ he was one of the first to combine social documentary pictures with the practice of color photography.
He was mostly inspired by American photographers such as Diane Arbus, Lee Freidlander, Garry Winogrand, who belong to the post-war artistic movement “New Documents” (as recognized in 1967 by the curator John Szarkowski for the MOMA.)
Because Paul Graham discovered photography through books he always had a unique relationship with them. This is strongly reflected in his work as books became his way to show his pictures, to tell his story. Books are the ultimate form of his art.
“The book is personal and direct, from the artist to you, complete and faithful.”
 
Through his first books published in the 80’s he portrays Great Britain struggles of the time. His ‘stolen’, candid images are strong symbols of the economical and political situation. They proved to be quite controversial at the time, especially as they were in color. From ‘A-1 The Great North Road’ and ‘Beyond Caring’ (pictures taken in unemployment offices) to ‘Troubled land’ (pictures mixing landscape with war photography in Ireland), he takes us on a subtle journey through the beauty and difficulties of daily life.
A-1 The Great North Road
A-1 The Great North Road
Beyond Caring
Beyond Caring
Troubled land
Troubled land

 Life is at the heart of his work. In ‘End of an age’, he shows us the face of adolescence. By mixing pictures with and without flash he captures the two sides of youth - in balance between moments of total blurred uncertainty and moments of perfect clairvoyance. The book itself is part of his creativity. As we follow the pages, the direction in which people look changes, following a circle, maybe as a representation of the circle of life.  
End of an age
End of an age
 
In his latest projects, he focuses on life in today’s United States – he takes us on his own very personal and intimate American road trip.
His photography reflects the flow of life: it’s a conscious vision of the world as it is. It’s a poetic dance with the world, yet it shows the crude reality of it.
In ‘American Night’, he depicts the social fracture of America through the images, as well as through the composition and structure of the book. The mix of overexposed pictures and full color reinforces the contradictions of American life and creates a musical intonation through the book.
American Night
American Night
 In ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’ Paul Graham takes the construction of his books to the next level. It’s not one, but 12 intimate books with no particular order, where he likes to play with the size and the position of each image. Inspired by Chekhov’s short stories the books are sequences of American lives. Paul Graham recognizes the flow of life through intriguing images – intriguing as life itself. Each little story is of beautiful simplicity, a spot of consciousness in the world around him, around us. By opposition to Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ he captures random moments of ordinary life, non-decisive moments full of opportunities, when everything is open.

3 comments:

  1. interesting stuff

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also went to this lecture of his. As an architect, it's always interesting for me to see how other artists present their work in lecture format.

    ReplyDelete
  3. yes, a good photographer is not always a good speaker! I really like going to lectures, I think it gives a completely different perspective on the work when you listen to the artist. But well nothing is better than seeing the work on walls or in a book.

    ReplyDelete