Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Photography
Competition: US & Canada
Paul Graham (born UK, 1956) studied Microbiology at Bristol University (1975-78, UK), where he found and embraced fine-art photography. Following graduation, he dedicated himself to pursuing his own work and in 1981-82 released A1—The Great North Road, a series of color photographs from along the length of the British A1 road, that had a transformative effect on the black-and-white tradition that had dominated British art photography to that point. This work, along with his other photographs of the 1980s—the color images of unemployment offices in Beyond Caring (1984-85), and the sectarian-marked landscape of Northern Ireland in Troubled Land (1984-86)—were pivotal in reinvigorating and expanding this area of photographic practice by both broadening its visual language, and questioning what such photography might say, be, or look like. Graham received an Arts Council Award for the publication of these works as books, and a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship to the United States in 1982.
Since then, Graham has continued to explore the territory where the documentary and artistic aspects of photography coalesce. New Europe (1988-93) used a poetic sequence of images to look at the tension between the shadow of history and the economic superstate in Western Europe, and was presented as the inaugural exhibition of the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, and released as a book. Empty Heaven (1989-95) considered the relationship between historical trauma and the childlike fantasy world in Japan, and became a solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany. He also exhibited at many international art festivals and exhibitions including the 49th Venice Biennale, and the Tate Gallery’s major exhibition Cruel and Tender on twentieth-century photography.
For the past ten years he has lived and worked in the United States, where he is a permanent resident. In this time he has undertaken two major bodies of work: American Night (1998-2003), which reflects the social fracture of American society through overexposed, near-invisible white images, and most recently, a shimmer of possibility (2004-06), which focuses on everyday moments of American lives through flowing sequences of images. This work was presented as a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and issued as a twelve-volume set of books by the German publisher Steidl.
Paul Graham’s work is self-funded, through print sales and occasional teaching work. He does not hold a tenured position at any institution.