Through renowned photographic series such as A1, Troubled Land, New Europe or American Night, British artist Paul Graham presents vivid portrayals of people and places. This comprehensive survey of over 25 years of work demonstrates his innovative approach to documentary, reinventing traditional genres of photography to create a unique visual language.
In the early 1980s Graham transposed the American genre of the road trip, exemplified by artists such as William Eggleston, to the less glamorous terrain of Britain’s A1 revealing its unexpectedly cinematic potential. He has gone on to use journeys – across Europe, Japan and America – to immerse himself in the landscapes and unconscious rituals of societies. The everyday scenarios he reflects are also embedded with a complex iconography. The hand that an immaculately made up Japanese girl waves across her mouth evokes a society anxiously over-invested in surfaces; under a hot grey Pittsburgh sky, an African American gardener mows the grass verge of a carpark, traversing back and forth, going nowhere.
Arrestingly beautiful, Graham’s photographs transform the banality of a social security office or a suburban lawn into compelling scenes. Yet for all the immediacy of his saturated colours and large formats, these pictures are also about what cannot be seen. ‘I realised that concealment… has run through… my work, from the landscape of Northern Ireland, and the unemployed tucked away in backstreet offices, to the burdens of history swept under the carpet in Europe or Japan. Concealment of our turmoil from others, from ourselves even’. This definitive show includes over 100 photographs as well as Graham’s book works and is accompanied by a comprehensive monograph.
Paul Graham: Photographs 1981–2006 is organised by the Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery.
With thanks to: Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London.