9.19.2012

New Ideas in Photography: Paul Graham

© Paul Graham, Pittsburgh 2004 (Lawnmower Man). From the series "shimmer of possibility"

Colin Pantall and Joerg Colberg have organized a collaborative community initiative to start the fall. They asked a range of bloggers and editors to select up to five photographers who "have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe. These three categories can be interpreted in any way."

The nominations are being posted starting today. This week I will select and post a photographer each day. My five selections are not in any order.

Other selections for this initiative will be posted on (or by): ConscientiousAndrew PhelpsaCuratorMrs DeaneReciprocity failureHarvey BengeMicrocordeyecuriousLPV Magazine, and Stella Kramer.
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First a few words on how I made my selections and interpreted the criteria.

I took "new ideas" to mean visually and thematically fresh photography, but not necessarily working within or creating new modes of photography.

"Taken chances" and "unwillingness to play it safe" I understood as photography that has prefaced the pursuit of the internal logic of a project and individual artistic lines of thought over engaging contemporary visual trends - as well as over the artist's own history in making images.

Finally, I also added my own final criteria, choosing photographers I believe produce strong images in addition to using new ideas and taking chances.

I came up with a list of 24 photographers over the last couple months, adding names as I came across new work or thought of someone's work that I believe fits the criteria. I cut the list down to 10 fairly quickly, but getting from 10 to 5 has been difficult. At this point, however, it's time to leap.
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My first two selections for the series were Bryan Graf and Amy Elkins.

My third selection for the series is Paul Graham.

While I appreciate his early work such as A1: The Great North Road and New Europe, for me Graham is a case of getting more interesting as his career evolves as he has moved from work with political themes to an investigation of the relationship between photography and seeing. It's for his recent projects shimmer of possibility and The Present that I am selecting him. These two projects have attacked and reinvigorated the conventions of street photography, pressing for a new understanding of photography and "the moment" as well as between how the eye sees and how the lens works in regards to focus, flow, and movement. The Present in particular is also one of the first major projects to take advantage of some of the unique qualities of digital photography, hopefully opening ideas for other photographers on how to explore the medium.

Graham is also widely considered a master of the photobook for his layouts, sequences, and use of white space and just happens to be one of the great contemporary writers on photography as well.

© Paul Graham, Man Walking in White Shirt, Atlanta. From the series "American Night"


© Paul Graham, New Orleans 2005 (Cajun Corner). From the series "shimmer of possibility"

© Paul Graham, Rockefeller Center. From the series "The Present"

© Paul Graham, Cafe Waitress, Johns Cafe, Sandy, Bedfordshire. From the series, "A1 The Great North Road"