a shimmer of possibility

Paul Graham has consistently engaged the book as the ultimate forum for the presentation and circulation of his images, beginning in 1983 with the self-published A1The Great North Road.

His latest, a shimmer of possibility (Göttingen: Steidl, 2007), is made up of twelve slim hardbound volumes, each containing sequences of photographs meant to convey a story of some sort, using only the images as narrative. Each volume is bound in colored cloth, without any printing on the spine; nor is there a title page or page numbers. At the back of each volume is a colophon with author name, publishing credits, and location of the photographs by town, state, year (e.g. “Austin, Texas, 2006″ or “Texas and North Dakota, 2005″).

The formality of the book’s structure offsets the quotidian nature of the images, which deal with commonplace actions—a walk from a supermarket, waiting at a bus stop, eating, lingering along a highway strip. The subjects are for the most part lower middle-class or poor. In one volume, “California 2005–2006,” scenes of affluent suburban settings are juxtaposed with more abject figures outside of fast food joints, amplifying the overall theme of the book: the invisibility of the poor, and an indifferent social infrastructure. The generic colored volumes and the discreet white pages used as a visual punctuation of the images function as both armature for the images and also a cool echo of the liminality of the subjects.

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