I've mentioned Paul Graham before in relationship to his new book(s)/series A Shimmer of Possibilities, but up until now it's been hard to find much of his work online. However, thanks to Shane Lavalette I just found out that Graham now has an archive of much of his work online.
A1 - Great North Road remains a fantastic colour milestone. For some years I lived just off the A1 and often travelled this historic route north and south (the book is almost impossible to find now - I bought my copy for about £10.00 I think and later sold it for $1600.00 to help fund my Phillips 8x10 - a fair exchange...). It's just an excellent collection of pictures.
Then came Beyond Caring, a rather damning - if oblique - look at the Welfare State at the height of the bleakest of the Thatcher years in 1986. Again, this came out at the same time that I was also photographing around the whole subject of unemployment and the post-industrial milieu of North East England.
"...Within four years I published three books: A1, Beyond Caring, and Troubled Land, driven by the boundless energy of youth, no doubt… but by 1987, I we had this juggernaut of color documentary photography emerging in England; it had really taken off. Martin Parr switched to color, so did people like Tom Wood, and then our students, like Paul Seawright or Richard Billingham or Nick Waplington came along. So… I felt it was time to move on from that, before it became exhausted. For example, the mixing of landscape with war photography in Troubled Land was striking and quite successful —I had shows in NYC galleries—but what happens is that you hit this resonant note and everyone wants you to repeat it. I was invited to duplicate Troubled Land in Israel and South Africa. Commissions, dollars, travel, the whole nine yards. But I thought, I can’t do this. For better or worse, I’m one of those artists who once something is “proven,” have to drop it and find another way to scare myself..."
"...RW: So you went to Europe?
PG: In the early to mid 80s I had made friends with a group of German photographers who were quite distinct from the Becher’s Dusseldorf school. They were mostly around Essen-Berlin: Volker Heinze, Joachim Brohm, Gosbert Adler, and Michael Schmidt too, who was running these workshops in Berlin and inviting people like John Gossage and Lewis Baltz to come over.
RW: It’s funny that that school is so unknown here. Michael Schmidt even had a one-man show at MoMA.
PG: Yes, a great show and few remember it. It's as though the Gursky show wiped out people’s under-standing of everything else in German Photography. Gursky is much more accessible. He goes for the jugular because it is about the ‘Great Photograph.’ Of course, he succeeds, but it’s recidivist, in a way. Photographers have been trying for years to make bodies of work where images work together to build up a coherent statement. It’s not about one great picture by Robert Adams; it’s about twenty or thirty pictures that form a sensitive, intelligent reflection of the world. It’s the same with Garry Winogrand, or Robert Frank. Gursky brings it back to that “wow” moment. It sort of undoes that way of working, and reduces things to the “What a great shot!” appreciation of photography. I’m a sucker for that as much as anyone, but want people to appreciate what Robert Adams does more so."
I must say I'm very much looking forward to seeing A Shimmer of Possibles when it arrives. Graham's work has nearly always given me something new to think about.