Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Paul Graham wins the 2009 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize

Now in its thirteenth year, this annual Prize of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution to photography in Europe, through either an exhibition or publication, over the past year. Paul Graham was selected by the Jury for his publication, a shimmer of possibility (steidlMACK, October 2007). This publication comprises 12 books of the same size but with different coloured covers. I think it is unfortunate that the photographers Gallery could not display the books in such a way that the viewer could leaf through them because the prints on the gallery wall did not do Graham or his books justice.

A shimmer of possibility is based on Chekhov's short stories which I have never read but are known for Chekhov's economy of writing. His writing is sparse and a few words develop a character or scene and this is what Paul has done with his books. He calls them 'filmic haikus'. The twelve books are all alike but vary in length and the number of photographs included. Each presents a different implied ‘short story’ with the less is more approach. Some do so with many images over the course of a book, and one book suffices with only the inclusion of one single image. I heard Graham talk about his work at the Photographer's Gallery last week. The images of individuals he showed in his talk and which appear in the books are about the flow of their life for small amounts of time which are not defined by a neat and tidy beginning, middle and an end. They are open ended moments where we pause to notice and experience these subjects, and as they move on in their own direction and continuum, we move on our way too. In some way his work relates to what I am trying to achieve with my work.

I had not thought of it before but the last 3 major works he has done define the three principle variables of photography: Focus, Aperture and Shutter. End of an Age used focus - sharp/blurry. American Night used exposure - light/dark, and the new one Shimmer of Possibility uses time - fixed/flowing.

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