United Kingdom, 1956
Paul Graham started out as a self-taught photographer and read extensively to develop his knowledge of the discipline. He drew inspiration from the work of the great American pioneers—Robert Frank, Walker Evans and Paul Strand—and William Eggleston for his use of colour. Along with Martin Parr, Graham was one of the first artists in Britain to use colour in documentary photography. The new format was initially viewed as inappropriate by critics and the photography world because it did not follow the canon established by the documentary tradition and agencies like Magnum. Graham’s photographic series are often structured around a journey. One of his first works, ‘A1 – The Great North Road’ (1983), is a series of images—of roadside cafes, lines of lorries, and so on—captured around the A1, the motorway that runs across the UK from London to Glasgow, linking the industrial regions of the north to the services of the south. The road was later the setting for miners’ demonstrations, which were starting to be organised to protest against measures taken by Margaret Thatcher’s government. ‘Beyond Caring’ (1985) is a series of photographs of Department of Health and Social Security offices, taken at a time when unemployment was on the rise. These early series underscore Graham’s interest in social issues and the traces that history leaves on places. His photographs show how history is revealed in the details of landscape and the minutiae of everyday life. Graham made ‘Hypermetropia’ in early 1995 while working in Japan on a five-year project entitled ‘Empty Heaven’. The photographs in the series were taken in Tokyo in a single day and document another journey of sorts. The first one was taken from the top of the apartment block where Graham was staying. From that point on, each successive shot was taken from the top of a tall building visible in the middle distance of the previous shot. As the photographic series advances, the city recedes; the camera never captures the full expanse of the metropolis. Meanwhile, the appearance of the sky gradually changes as the day progresses. None of the images presents the expected panoramic view of the city. The view of Tokyo that ‘Hypermetropia’ offers is a fragmented and chaotic one.