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#163 Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006 at Whitechapel Gallery

June 6, 2011
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The inside of Whitechapel Gallery! MR BROWN HOW DOES THIS HELP US WE KNOW WHAT GALLERIES LOOK LIKE INSIDE. AN IMAGE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S WORK WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE APPROPRIATE. (Mr Brown says 'Awww phooey' in a Donald Duck voice)

We’ll become supra-quiffed Shoreditch Shamans one of these days. Here we are at Whitechapel Gallery, all hushed and white (oh! a bit like a chapel!) and gallery-ish.

You can tell we’re in Hoxton because you can see lots of boys’ ankles and nobody is smiling. The exhibition’s good, though! Photos it is, spanning SERIOUS BUT NOT UNFRIENDLY Paul Graham’s 25 years of snapping, and taking in several collections. Portraits of angsty clubbers, dazed in blue and purple light; shots from a motorway journey, teasing out the equivocal inhabitants of the half-places, the service stations and food courts; asian and eastern europeans against a tawdry, electrifying background of social change and mobility; tramps and low-wage workers in the US, the people that normally get edited out of the glossy shots.

Most powerfully, idyllic images of Northern Ireland in the 80s, which appear to be nothing more than tasteful landscapes or bland suburbias, until you look closely and see the single jarring note of violence in each one: a sectarian poster, a stop and search, a soldier running for his life. This kind of studious documentary hyper-realism beats a lot of the composed art you’ll find. It’s a nice break from chin-scratching conceptual art, too.

You can go until June 19th, but don’t worry, because if you miss it, there’ll be another, different exhibition occupying the same space there! Kthxbai!

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