Issue 2

Guest editor: Markus Schaden

Aperture Foundation

Spring 2012

On The Present by Paul Graham


What is the present? This essential and ambiguous question immediately confronts the reader in Paul Graham’s new book. The established shooting device provides a first element of answer. Contrasting with the idea of a single image meant to embrace an entire scene, Graham works in diptychs and triptychs captured every few seconds on the streets of New York: a person enters the frame, leaves, and another comes in; a man stands on the sidewalk, waiting for a cab to go by before crossing the street. Seldom does an event occur: a woman walks, then tumbles. Graham thus proceeds – as any photographer would, actually – with a slicing of time, but in a claimed, explicit way. So we come to understand that according to him, this is where the present stands: within a range of perceptions in a given situation. As testified by his photographic choices: focus point and composition often vary slightly from one image to the next. Thus giving a representation of what human vision is when observing the environment: accommodating here, and there, turning the head slightly. A stream of points of view which once put together shapes our awareness of the present.  […]