Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paul Graham confirmed for AUT Summer Workshop at AUT's St Paul Street Gallery

Following workshops with Peter Bialobrzeski, Antoine d'Agata, Andre Lutzen, Lewis Baltz, Slavica Perkovic, John Gossage and Alec Soth; the tradition of AUT University's Summer Photography Workshop programme continues. Paul Graham (and a yet to be decided second international photographer) will teach a workshop at AUT's St Paul Street Gallery over January 15, 16, and 17, 2010. As in the past places are limited. If you're interested contact Neil Cameron, Registrar AUT School of Art and Design.

Paul Graham (UK, 1956) is part of that generation of photographers born in the 1950’s that have come to prominence in art photography today, whose creatively formative years coincided with the rich flowering of postwar American photography. Whilst later image makers would approach the medium as ‘artists using photography’, this generation, which includes such notables as Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Rineke Djikstra, Thomas Struth and Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, committed themselves to photography at a time when it was not part of the art world. The images of photographers like Robert Adams, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, or Diane Arbus were important influences, most of whose work came from a tumultuous period in the late 1960-70's, a time of questioning the world and our place within it, creating work that was firmly rooted in finding itself through what could be observed, with trusting what you could see with your own eyes.

Paul Graham was among the first photographers to unite contemporary colour photography with the classic genre of social documentary. In 1981/2 he completed 'A1 - The Great North Road', a series of colour photographs from along the length of the British A1 road, which 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 1980's - the colour 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 it's visual language, and questioning how such photography might operate. Photographers such as Martin Parr made the switch to colour soon after, and a new school of British Photography evolved with the subsequent colour work of Richard Billingham, Tom Wood, Paul Seawright, Anna Fox, Simon Norfolk, Nick Waplington, etc.

Since then Graham has continued to explore the fertile territory where the documentary and artistic aspects of photography coalesce, often tackling difficult subject matter for a medium that is firmly based in the observable world. 'New Europe' (1988-1993) used a poetic flow of images to look at the tension between the shadow of history and the rush to an economic superstate in Western Europe. 'Empty Heaven' (1989-1995), considers the relationship between historical trauma and the childish fantasy world in Japan - themes that would later become central to the "Superflat" movement of contemporary Japanese art. More recently his work has reflected an examination of what we expect from a photographic image, be it a portrait - as in the hard:soft images of young people in 'End of an Age' (1996-98); or questioning what actually registers in our vision, with 'American Night' (1998-2003), which mirrored the social fracture of American society through deliberately overexposed, near invisible white images. Most recently Graham completed 'a shimmer of possibility' (2004-2006) that reflects everyday moments of American lives, whilst also examining photography's ability to compress or expand time, utilising flowing sequences of images.

At a time when art photography is increasingly staged, (Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Thomas Demand) or holds the world at a conceptualized distant view (Andreas Gursky, Berndt and Hilla Becher, Thomas Struth), Paul Graham's work distinguishes itself by retaining a firm and full commitment to life as it unfolds; to an understanding that at its core photography begins with an unblinking engagement with the world. Embracing this crucial axiom of photography Graham has been vital in reinvigorating this central area of practice, both by broadening photography's visual language, and, essentially, by questioning our notions of what such photography could say, be, or look like.

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