Paul Graham

Poetry of Everyday Life

When Paul Graham traveled through the USA between 2004 and 2006, he was driven above all by curiosity: he wanted to explore the country that he had lived in for the past two years and was to become his home. Graham did not follow any fixed plan, but chose intuitively which regions he would visit. Setting off from his home in New York, he traveled mostly by car, seeking out the nondescript fringes of smaller towns, where he watched people going about their lives at intersections, in parking lots, fast-food restaurants or residential areas. Inspired by the scenes he observed, he focused his lens on the overlooked, everyday events and actions: people waiting for a bus or smoking a cigarette, cutting grass or bringing groceries home, eating meals or drinking a can of beer. Fascinated by this refraction of daily life, he made these encounters the subject of his photo series "a shimmer of possibility", published as a set of twelve slim hardbound photobooks.

Each volume is dedicated to either a single scene or a pair of events, which he captures in a stuttering succession of images as the flow of time unspools before his camera. Like short, erratic film sequences, they allow the viewer to follow Graham's entranced, lingering gaze. He himself describes them as "filmic haikus" in reference to the very short Japanese poems. The photographs do not conceal the fact that the people he engaged with often live on the economic margins of society. He reveals the tragedy of fate, for example when he shows a man who has lost both legs, sitting in a wheelchair at an intersection and drinking his third can of beer, or a little girl playing on the curb, left to her own devices. But 'middle class' life is present here, too: we watch a woman collect her post in a street lined with large houses and expensive cars, while in another volume a family enjoys their food at a roadside restaurant on a sunny Californian morning.

Graham's eye draws us through the veil of the commonplace, so that we begin to perceive the value of the moments that make up so much of our lives. His pictures tell of economic struggle, but also of happiness, hope and contentment, even on society's economic margins. His work points to the quiet, unassuming delight that can be experienced anywhere and at any time, if we learn to look closely and become aware of the poetry of everyday life that shimmers with possibility.

Biographical information

1956

born in Stafford, United Kingdom

1978

graduates from Bristol University, Bristol, United Kingdom

2011

receives the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award

lives in New York City