Paul Graham – A1: The Great North Road

Paul Graham, born in 1956, is an English fine art photographer known mainly within the photography circles as a highly prolific and successful photographer, being published and exhibiting throughout the world. His 1983 publication ‘A1: The Great North Road’ which took him 2 years to complete, extensively travelling the length of the road and therefore the majority of the country he creates a brilliant record of life throughout the United Kingdom across the geographically divides while still focusing on an lifeline and important element of the infrastructure of the country. It is a poignant collection of images, capturing Britain and the people in a honest manner, the selection of images bring together a strong sense of emotion and appreciation of Britain in the early 1980’s, I am not old enough to remember but this time, but viewing these images you get a strong sense of the people, the run of the mill working class members of society who frequent the majority of the scenes we see, the crumbling and in some cases dilapidated interiors and exteriors along the road give us even now, not to far in the future an accurate and I feel, emotional love letter of affection to the towns along its route. The shift from the traditionally black and white social documentary of the past was beginning to give ground to colour. For me, the use of colour by Paul in these images is paramount to there success in grabbing my focus, emotions, and connection. Graham has not only used colour within the image but focused on the colours uses, relationships and effects on final images. For example the photograph of the service station including the ‘Little Chef’ restaurant, which is one of my favourite images from the book, uses the red and yellow, which due to its natural brightness of the green grabs the attention more so, contrast strongly drawing the viewer to the image. What I like most of all of this image is that even though he has photographed what looks to be an extremely overcast and rainy day the colours still really stand out in brightness swell as well as contrast. This aides what I referred to earlier is the overall feeling of an affectionate view of his subjects, regardless of the typical British weather as some would believe the buildings are bright and inviting. To finish off the image, the composition and use of white is brilliant, by placing the  ‘Safe Journey’ road markings in the lower corner we don’t see it until after being drawn to the bright colours of the architecture. Also the connotations of this phrase makes the image feel personal, as tho he is wishing the viewer safe journeys also. The photograph showing two men sat drinking tea on a bus is a further depiction on not only the environment, landscape and architecture of the time but also the people. The image also asks further questions on the lifestyle and understanding of economical situation in the early 80’s what appears to be a makeshift cafe in a double-decker bus on the side of the road. The clothing, bus interior and kitchenette all give a basic working class feel, stripped back to basics to do the ‘job’ with what they had at the time. The colours in this image are not as bright or vibrant in this image but they, compliment each other nicely, the red upholstery and green of the jumpsuit worn by the man on the right gives the foreground a complimentary colour relationship that with them both being rather dull in there respective colours works even better in this image, giving a sense of basic working class. The overall white kitchenette separates the photograph nicely, keeping the areas separate which gives us a greater sense of depth.

This work and further insight into the works of Paul Graham was undertaken to further my understanding of colour in photography and to aid me in the third assignment of Art of Photography. Paul Grahams pioneering use of colours in this social documentary style was relatively new at the time and gave a far emotive quality to the images of an era that was often flamboyant in its stylings and furniture while also bleak and grey through a time of deep economic uncertainty. I feel Grahams use of colour and more specifically the elements in different photographs as mentioned above are fascinating and effecting uses and it was this combination that intrigued me further into his work and my understanding on the relevance to the assignment and my photographic development and understanding as a whole.


2 responses to “Paul Graham – A1: The Great North Road

  1. Pingback: New Topographic Movement | Chris Payne's OCA Blog·

  2. Pingback: Assignment 3: Colour – Planning | Chris Payne's OCA Blog·

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