Films is Paul Graham's eulogy to the physical material of photography: film. The 20th century's greatest medium has undergone a catastrophic decline over the past decade as digital cameras have swept aside the traditional process of taking photographs. Film has died: Kodacolor, Fujicolor, Tri-X, Kodachrome, Ektacolor – all evocative names for any photographer – are now gone or fading fast. Yet this magical material is a true product of both science- silver salts suspended in gelatin emulsion on celluloid base, and magical alchemy - it could capture light. Film became one of the defining materials of the 20th century, and just as oil paint or marble in their time, it has been the medium used by each and every great artist of photography and film making. While examining his past 30 years of work for the 2009 survey exhibition and book [hyperlink], Graham became enraptured with the material of his craft, and began to reflect upon the physical substance by which he, and indeed all photographers, made their images. Besides scanning his images for the survey, he also began to scan the blank film ends and unexposed frames from each body of work to gather an alternative survey, a 'negative retrospective' of his practice. What first appears to be abstract dots, blobs or colour forms, are in fact simply greatly magnified images of the raw film emulsion– the color dye clouds formed in the exposure and development of film. These images are not abstract at all, but just extreme close-ups of the film's structure – the red, green and blue chemical couplers that form film emulsion, the basic building blocks of each and every image. Their beauteous complication, the wonder of their granular form, irrespective of what they describe, is given here for each of us to enjoy.
Graham presents us a timely tribute to the passing of film. The grains, color dye clouds, the black and white silver crystals, make images of stunning beauty, simplicity and scientific record. Part wistful homage, part farewell, part visual wonder, Films is a book for anyone who engaged with photography in the 20th century.
In the pressIMA