Photographs © Paul Graham
I chanced upon Mr. Graham's work a few months ago. My knowledge of photo history ended squarely with work leading up until the late 1970's. Over the next few decades it felt to me as if the story was more about changing technologies than noticing what any one artist was doing that was pushing the boundaries of the art form. I lost interest in keeping up with the medium.
Well I think the dust has finally settled. People are back to once again proving that photography is the art form of our time. Old film cameras are back in use, as are our cell phones and the latest high-quality digital cameras.
I maybe premature but I think Graham is the man. What is it about Graham's work that I think makes him the most relevant photographer of our century? I think he combines perfectly a nod to the formalist tradition, the social documentary view point and marries it with an absurd pop-culture slant. It is almost as if he studied 100 years of photography and created a recipe to launch the next 100 years of imaging. He respects the tradition of the medium with a new relevant way to see.
His work builds wonder and excitement out of everyday actions and rituals. It feels rooted in reality but magical at the same time. It isn't about what photography and compositions should look like but instead about how life might really feel if your senses were aligned to the everyday and you took the time to really look. All of this layered over larger social political issues. It is subtle and emotive work. His use of sequencing and narrative story telling with images is fresh.
The best photography is not just about the technology, dramatic light or stunning one-of-a-kind views. It is about our world seen through the eyes of someone who has an extraordinary sense of transforming the every day into viewpoints around humanity that cause reflection, thought or feeling.