Paul Graham’s Photos: Perfect for the Oval Office?

THE DAILY PIC: Graham's photos at the Carnegie Museum prefer doubt to false certainty.

THE DAILY PIC (#1674): At the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, a collection show called “Strength in Numbers: Photography in Groups” gets at the serial tendencies that are so vital to the history of the photograph. Almost no one has underlined that as well as the British photographer Paul Graham, whose Pittsburgh (man cutting grass), a nine-picture suite, is sampled in today’s Pic. (See the whole suite below.)

By the simple fact of dividing one extended moment into its component and contingent parts, Graham undermines the inevitability and necessity of the iconic images that have always been so important in Western culture. He pushes back against great art’s sense that the scenes it depicts had to be just so and not otherwise. Graham tells us that if an image had been captured at any number of moments before or after, it might have looked quite different. That isn’t just an esthetic position. It has a kind of ethical weight, privileging doubt over certainty.

Could the Carnegie please offer its Grahams for the walls of the Oval Office? (©Paul Graham, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York)


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