Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Paul Graham

There is a certain delicious pleasure to be had slopping about in your flipflops on a rainy day in London. Of course the key lies in knowing you're not far from home, dry clothes and somewhere to soak your feet; like I was on Sunday.
I'd just come back from The Whitechapel Gallery taking in the sublime Paul Graham exhibition, which very much brought back to me the importance of the small things, simple pleasures and taking the time to observe them.
Work like Paul Graham's always has this effect on me, then again so does gin.

If you've not been to the exhibition yet you have until June 19th to get down there. It's so worth the trip, and it's free. Leave now, go immediately. . .

Screen grab from Whitechapel website

. . . You're still here? Ok then let me explain why you should go.

Paul Graham emerged onto the photography scene in the early '80's having received his lightbulb moment amongst his college library's photobook shelves. Please keep in mind he was not at Art College, he was one of the those Science block types looking to take up some extra curricular.
It was here looking through the pages that it suddenly dawned on him, photography can be used to tell a story.
And that's what he's gone on to do. Graham picks up his camera and tells us stories. Whether it's the one about Thatcher's Britain or the one about Belfast, they're there, recorded and ready for us to read.

Like with so much Art, Paul Graham's pieces are very much of their time and retrospectively looking at them you can't help but notice the layers in each shot.
Take the portrait above, although shot in the early 90's, the polite hidden giggle and whitened face seem to hark back to a much older era. Is he trying to point out lingering cultural repressions?
There's no denying that there's a nod to this in the shot but as Graham himself is keen to admit, in the video chat that plays across from the cafe, he's somewhat the inadvertent Historian, often just looking for a good shot and himself reading into it's messages after that initial moment is captured.

It's his honesty and complete lack of pretension in the video that actually made the exhibition for me. So please, when you go allow yourself a 40min window to sit down and enjoy it. His response to being asked about the importance of "The Journey" across his work will have Photographers and their Agents chuckling heartily :)

No comments:

Post a Comment