On Friday the 20th of May 2011 I viewed Paul Grahams works at the Whitechaple in London with a few of my fellow students. The basic information that I learned about Grayham is that his career spanned 30 years in which he played a crucial role in the development of photography as a medium. During this time Grayham produced some renowned photographic series such as the A1, Troubled Land, New Europe, End Of An Age and American Night all through which present vivid portrayals of people and places, demonstrating his innovative approach to documentary, reinventing traditional genres of photography to create a unique visual language.
looking at the series, End Of n Age the atmospheric portraits of young people in an anonymous European city construct a candid portrait of a generation reaching adulthood on the cusp of the new millennium. It was at this point in Paul Graham’s life that he began to work increasingly in the United States finally moving to NY in 2002. I admire Grayham’s use of different lighting within this body of work, as every image has a slightly different warmth of light evident within the frame, also the use of coloured (almost club lighting) has created some strong visually dynamic compositions.
Moving on to another main body of work that grabbed my attention was American Night, mainly due to a selection of the imagery being deliberately overexposed, making the viewer search out the images content and over all meaning that Grayham was trying to capture within the frame. I found these group of images rather odd, as I still don’t fully understand what exactly Grayham was trying to portray to the viewer, in my opinion I think that he was trying to show that every individual has there own take on the ghost like qualities that an underexposed image creates. Following this I feel that it’s a challenge to the viewer almost forcing them to come to there own conclusion as to the greater meaning to capture a photograph in this way.
The final body of work which intrigued me greatly was Troubled Land (1984 – 86), this series of imagery were captured mainly throughout Ireland, Belfast. Graham uses the camera to analyse new territories, these works become less associated with direct political or social issues, instead his works are used to explore intangible themes such as history, society & the collective psychological effect of trauma on individuals and nations. To me Grayham’s imagery of Irelands turbulent past show another type of war photography, almost emphasising the fact that a situation doesn’t have to portrayed in such a way as that of war photographers such as; Don Mcullin, Larry Burrows, Rodger Fenton, James Nachtwey and Kevin Carter would do normally showing images of carcasses and gory scenes.
On one of the plaques of information about the work I was about to view, I read a quote from Paul Grayham himself which in my opinion sums up his works and his personal, mental approach to the bodies of work which are now on show in the Whitechaple to the wider community this is the quote which stood out so vividly to me, ‘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’.
Bellow is a slide show of a selection of images which stood out to me from the gallery at whitechapel.