Paul Graham

Also at the Whitechapel Gallery.

This exhibition is wide, time and styles. A chance to examine transitions, openness, the willingness to experiment, the arch of a career. Many of the images are here.

The 80’s period of images here seem to conflict with my previous mention of colour and time and crisis. They relate to the time period I seemed to envision as black and white, but are full of colour. The A1 series seems not to talk of conflict directly but documents the period. Many of these images were quite small. I am glad to see prints of such a size, there seems to be a dominance of large prints in modern photography. Smaller prints seem to have certain qualities to them. They seem more personal and in many ways accessible. The size calls to mind books and magazines, to forms of media that are easily reproduced and available to wider range of people, more democratic (having said that the book is now going for £279.00). Conversely super large pictures call to mind the boardroom and the gallery and seem to belong to a different world of collectors and expensive trophy purchases, of domination and totalities (space and economy). Of course there are many beautiful large and small prints which work outside this dichotomy. It is an invention and a prejudice, but there are elements of truth for me in these thoughts. These pictures are both beautiful and bleak, full of the “ordinary” the road trip without the americana, fellow traveller with Chris Petit’s film “Radio On”. The landscape of England at a period in time, but also unchanged, documenting the edgelands.

“Beyond Caring” continues  exploration of edgelands….. economic, less geographical this time. Candid shots of unemployment offices. Reflecting the boredom of waiting for crumbs. Faces staring into the distance waiting for numbers to be called. Not aware of the camera. Government architecture, government decorations. The photograph of a horses head, the mountain scene, and the images taken from a Dickens illustration. Full of angles and jumbled horizons, taken on the fly. Are these examinations of the people? or the institution? A Victorian survey? An exploration of the other?

“Troubled Land” pictures of  Irish countryside and streets. Ordinary almost dull but each one puncture by a little detail. The troubles. A union jack poster, a helicopter, a gathering for a march, a soldier, a search, a splash of paint. Small details you might not notice. The troubles marking an ordinary landscape. A landscape we might all recognise. Again edgelands.

There always seems a development within these pictures you feel that Graham is working through an idea and then moving onwards to try new things. Not content to sit with a style. Evolving.  His later work moves outside the UK to Europe and Japan and the USA. Through history the growth of the EU, the end of a certain generation of youth, bathed in come down colours. Waiting for it to finish. The edgelands of youth and adulthood. Dark pictures in which you search out the tones of the figures and bleached photos pushed almost to pure whiteness. The white pictures sit with saturated pictures of houses and cars, the white pictures contain figures but they are almost invisible (like the flags and posters of the troubled land) you strain to see them to see the human in the American landscape. Disappearing.

The exhibition is a lot to take in. The later pictures are fussy in my mind. A two visit show?

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Filed under May 2011, Thoughts

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