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Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Paul Graham

Last year, I interviewed Paul Graham
about A Shimmer of Possibility for the BJP. This is the story:

A Shiver of Possibility

There are 12 volumes to Paul Graham’s A Shimmer of Possibility and nothing much happens in any of them. A man smokes a cigarette, a woman eats a meal and a couple walk home from the supermarket. The themes are humdrum and so are the pictures. There is no spectacular light, no fancy angles and no in-your-face portraits. Everything is direct, to-the-point and supremely quiet. Yet somehow, add it all up and you have a work that brings together the great movements of American photography in a seemingly effortless swoop that redefines what a photo book can be.

The first volume sets the scene. Two sets of sequences are spliced together to provide a gentle rhythm for the American dream to unfold against. In the first of 9 images, an African-American man mows grass above a roadway in Pittsburgh. In the background, tree covered hills are bathed in a hazy sunlight and everything seems somehow idyllic. The next shots are wider and Graham reveals more of the surrounding landscape - gas station signs, telegraph poles and fast food restaurants enter the image. The grass the man is mowing is by a car park, it’s flecked with brown and is arid. This is no rural idyll, and the mowing work is no walk in the park either. It’s labour and it’s hard. The man wipes his face and trudges back and forth, and back again, his brown van waiting for him to finish the day. And when the day is done, he can eat and wash and replenish himself. Graham hints at the food the man will consume, splicing the mowing sequence with images from a convenience store, its shelves lined with processed food that is a pale an imitation of what food should be.

Continue reading here

image copyright Paul Graham

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