A SHIMMER OF POSSIBILITY
28-01-2008 / 09-03-2008
“If you shift your gaze from peripheral vision, you can begin to glimpse something.” (Paul Graham). The series American Night is comprised of a series of large-format photographs taken between 1998 and 2003 in different locations throughout North America. American Night is not only about photography; it also addresses the disconcerting world we live in. It is a kind of treatise on the act of seeing and representing: everything has already been photographed in myriad ways, and the only advance that photography can make is the negation of vision.
These photographs speak of the social gap in the United States – the great divide that separates the excluded and the included, the haves and have-nots. American Night embraces this desolate territory in a series of powerful images that invade our consciousness while simultaneously crossing the line that separates art from documentary.
The phrase American Night refers to the cinematographic effect by which a nocturnal scene is filmed during the day and the image is later darkened during the post-production process. This effect, which by definition offers a deceptive image of reality, is submitted to re-examination by inverting the process. Another contradictory approach is the use of extreme clarity to portray what the title seems to imply are dark and lugubrious nocturnal scenes from the American landscape.
The discourse of the American Night series is based on the enormous fault line that now divides American society, which is explicitly evidenced in the dichotomies of inclusion/ exclusion, black/white or haves/have-nots. These divisions, ever-present in American society, are reflected in images that portray the lives of the underprivileged and the downtrodden. To this end, Graham rejects the traditional use of chiaroscuros, inverting the habitual perception of the impassable rift between two irreconcilable social statuses.
The forbidding urban locations frequented by the protagonists of the images acquire a white tone by means of overexposure, thus imbuing the landscape and the people who inhabit it with a vacuous quality. These characters pass through places that become “no man’s land.” Paul Graham has created this series of photographs that touch upon the unseen, incomprehension and a fractured, divided world. By creating images that we see as Saramago’s blind characters would perceive the world, he prints texts that cannot be read and announces the loss of vision and the desertion of clarity.