Monday, April 06, 2009

Paul Graham

The photography of Paul Graham is currently on exhibit at MoMA in New York. I think that he considers himself a documentary photographer judging from his introduction on his website.

I suppose I am not sure in some ways because the definition really broadens out a lot since Robert Frank’s seminal publication of The Americans in the 1950s. Like Robert Frank, Graham is first and foremost a museum photographer not a photojournalist. (Is museum photographer the real category? Fine art photographer sounds pretentious. I’m not sure what the proper term is for using museums and other fine arts display areas as a means of disseminating this type of work rather than thru news magazines). Also like Robert Frank, Walker Evans is a huge influence. The body of work on display shows groups of photographs dependent on repetition, narrative and viewing images as a group instead of a single image to show a single visual concept. The photographs fill a gallery and are sparingly displayed giving each more impact than if more groups were shown. Each of the photographs in each group are displayed in individual frames. I like the similarity to Robert Frank’s work in that Paul Graham choose to wander around the United States as an outsider trying to get an idea of what makes the United States what it is. Graham grew up in England. For the most part, the people in the photographs appear to have difficult lives. It was hard for me to get accustomed to seeing a concept expressed in a small group of photographs rather than a single photograph and on Graham’s website I found this type of display for this particular body of work made no sense to me at all. This is a new and exciting way of making documentary photographs.


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