TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

borut peterlin, slovenia, ambrotype, Portrait photography, Wet Plate Collodion, Analog Film photography

Homage to Paul Graham

with 3 comments

Paul Graham at the workshop in Fabrica in year 2000

Last week I was on a vacation and I’ve read a book review of newest project by Paul Graham at Aphotoeditor by Robert Haggart. I’ve first encountered Paul Graham’s work at an exhibition at Month of Photography in Bratislava, year 1994. It was an exhibition of New British Documentary Photography. When I was in Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre, year 2000, he had a two days workshop there. Until then I didn’t fancy his aesthetic, but I understood his topics and I loved his early works especially Beyond Caring and Troubled Land. His work you don’t understand on a first glance, it took me a while of reading and contemplation to get familiar with the idea that war photography can be done with medium format camera from far and it’s OK, that your pictures aren’t good enough because you’re not close enough.

While we had a workshop together he asked from us to go out and make pictures, that we wouldn’t otherwise, we were asked to make mistakes, rigorous technical and compositional mistakes. We went out and each of us shot a roll of film and I took it as a joke, throwing camera in the air and taking pictures with a timer on and of course nobody took an effort to look trough a viewfinder. And accordingly that’s how our pictures look like, a one big mess! Paul came along and start shuffling pictures and out of this mess of unsharp, blurry, over&under exposed pictures made a series that actually looked really cool! Then he was talking about possible connotations that this kind of aesthetic could be applied to. I was astonished! What a good workshop!

So when I read the book review that I’ve mentioned before I clicked through the book and as always it’s not on a first ball as we say it, but as all Graham’s projects it takes some time to get familiar with his new “invention” in photography. To be honest my belief was that diptychs, triptychs and other typtichs are for photographers who can not make a good picture, then they do some distracting maneuvers with juxtaposing several images together. In 99% it’s like that, if you ask me, or even more if the theme of the series is dealing with identity of a photographer (grow up!).

But, I’m also great fan of Duane Michals and his way of transcending an image with a sequence and Graham’s diptychs are sharing a some sort of rhythm that I like. Furthermore this is actually a street photography, a contemporary modern version street photography, that I adore. Robert Haagart wrote:

“But, inch by inch, I realized that the book’s locale is strictly allegorical. It could have been London, or Barcelona, or San Francisco, or almost any city on Earth. The title of the book is not “NYC,” it’s “The Present.” Mr. Graham is asking us to take him at his word, and look beyond the obvious.”

At the moment I was reading this I was at a vacation at the sea site in Nerezine, Croatia, so I wondered if it could have been NY, London, Barcelona, why not Nerezine as well? I took my camera and the very next day I’ve made a jackpot of an image that I’m publishing bellow. I’m continuing with the mining the concept…


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3 Responses

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  1. Thank you very much Borut, I have long been considering a similar approach and you have given me some useful sources and valuable validation. Sequences bring in time and tension, that a single images rarely can achieve. Also we try to control every aspect of our image making, and introducing some randomness into the process….in a sense destroying the orderliness of our approach, means that we are forced to re-evaluate ideas of composition, purpose and meaning. It’s a challenge to consider narrative, but sequences can make sense and give purpose to images that in themselves have neither. This is making me think….thanks again, this is a thought provoking post.
    Regards: John.

    John M Smith

    6 September, 2012 at 00:33

  2. Dear John,
    thank you for your comment. I totally agree. I had to add my obnoxious remark about photographers dealing with identity as this is a joke from my student years, where at London College of Printing we, at PostGraduate studies, were laughing to BA students and their ever-green theme of identity. I am aware that no prejudice is good and that was a big prejudice! Concerning my pictures, probably the middle two aren’t fitting the subject as well, but I’ve ad them to prove my point. They work, but not sure if in this series.
    I’ll do my best to publish more, much more, of this kind of thought provoking posts. Art is challenging indeed!
    thx again,
    B5

    Borut Peterlin

    6 September, 2012 at 07:24

  3. […] Duane Michals, Steven Gill, Francesco Zizola, George Georgiou, Vanessa Winship, Joel Peter Witkin, Paul Graham, Pep Bonet, Paul Lowe, Klavdij Sluban and many […]


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