Paul Graham

Paul Graham (born 1956) is a British photographer (although he has lived long term in America) who uses documentary photography to explore, not just what is happening, but why it happened and the associated emotions. One of his recent books a shimmer of possibility shows images taken on his travels around America. The book shows 12 visual stories of the small pieces of life that make up the America of the ordinary people that live there. In an interview he says  “it has steadily become less important to me that the photographs are about something in the most obvious way. I am interested in more elusive and nebulous subject matter. The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness… you can’t sum up the results in a single line. In a way, ‘a shimmer of possibility’ is really about these nothing moments in life.” (O’Hagan, 2011).  In another book, Cease Fire he shows images of the sky over Northern Ireland’s troubled areas such as the Shankill Road. What is he saying? And how do you interpret them?

Paul Graham 1
© Paul Graham – from Cease Fire

His most recent book Mother (Graham, 2019) is more personal. It shows a series of apparently simple images of his mother in her care home. The images are dark, the light only glancing of the edges of her cheekbones or her hair. Often her face is not in focus, rather the focus is on the edge of her blouse or the sinews in her neck. There is only one image where she is looking at him and that look (to me at least) reads ‘What are you up to now?” Many of the images show her sleeping. The images are large, shown in groups and interspersed with pink textured pages, which echo the pink that his mother frequently wears. The book is described as showing ‘mortality and the slow unravelling of late old age……the watched-over becomes the watcher’. It is a series of images that I wish I had taken of my mother; they are his tribute – but will stand in for mine.

Mother_Paul_Graham-61_aeb7f40c-0c73-444e-81ad-d434800398d8_1024x1024
© Paul Graham – Mother

References

Graham, P. (2019). Mother. S.L.: Mack.

O’Hagan, S. (2011). Paul Graham: “The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether.” [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/apr/11/paul-graham-interview-whitechapel-ohagan [Accessed 18 Oct. 2019].

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