I had seen Graham's work as I review for Critical Mass, and got the opportunity to meet him in Santa Fe. I was thrilled to see such a solid body of work, beautifully crafted, with a compelling story.
My mother the mystery writer would be pounding away on her typewriter crafting text to accompany each image. So much information, yet so much left yet unsaid. These are brilliant narratives, visual treats.
I kept thinking of how I wanted to talk about this body of work, but it can't be said any better than in Graham's own words.
From his Artist Statement -
"The inspiration for Suburban Splendour came from numerous sources. Images materialized from encounters observed while driving, walking to the shops or visiting friends, from eavesdropping and casual conversation, but more often than not the photographs were inspired by literature and cinema. Films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, and Ray Lawrence all contributed, as did writing by Richard Ford and the lyrics of Paul Kelly. But the background soundtrack, which remained constant, was the voice of the American short story writer Raymond Carver. Carver's vision depicts ordinary blue collar people living lives of quiet desperation, people who are feeling their way in the dark with the hope that maybe next week things will get better. Reading his work, now nearly twenty years after his death, it seems to me that his writing taps into a sense of contemporary isolation that reflects the anomie, uncertainties and vulnerabilities of existing in a world changed after 9/11, and on a planet which contemplates an undecided environmental future.
Melancholy has always appeared to be just under the skin of the suburban vernacular. We are no happier now than we were fifty years ago. Life seems a process of replacing one anxiety for another; one desire for another and the elusive dream of happiness is continuously postponed. What if happiness is not a final destination that we plan to arrive at and then stay, but a fragile and fleeting emotion, an intermittent state that evaporates leaving us with a lingering backdrop of what Julia Kristeva calls "a sad voluptuousness, a despondent intoxication"?
We all experience within us what the Portuguese call saudade, or the German sehnsucht. Nick Cave in 'The Secret Life of the Love Song', describes saudade as a vague but inconsolable longing, an unnamed enigmatic yearning and an inexplicable sadness which lies at the heart of certain works of art. "The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart," he says "will never be able to write convincingly about wonder, the magic and the joy of love…so within the fabric of the Love Song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of suffering."
The compressed cinematic frames of Suburban Splendour try to articulate something of the soft lament that Cave and Carver allude to. These characters are troubled, but not irretrievably lost; they carry a dignified endurance and a sense of bruised optimism. These people are survivors. They have a desire, as we all do, to be transported from darkness into light."