Paul Graham Wins $150K Hasselblad Award

By David Walker

©Paul Graham
Pittsburgh, (Man Cutting Grass), 2004. From the series 'a shimmer of possibility.'

British photographer Paul Graham has won the 2012 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, the foundation has announced. The award includes a $150,000 prize and an exhibition, which will open October 26 at the Gothenburg Museum of Art in Sweden.

In announcing the award, the foundation recognized Graham as "one of the most brilliant photographers of his generation" who has presented "an extremely focused body of work, at once perfectly coherent and never monotonous" during a career that has spanned nearly 40 years. The foundation also praised Graham for work that "makes tangible the insignificant traces of 'the spirit of the times' we do not normally see," and it credited the photographer with developing "innovative forms of working with all aspects of photography."

Graham has produced several noteworthy bodies of work, most recently his 2009 12-volume book titled A Shimmer of Possibility. Previous works include American Night (2003) and Beyond Caring (1985).

Graham explained to the Guardian in an interview last year, ""It has steadily become less important to me that the photographs are about something in the most obvious way. I am interested in more elusive and nebulous subject matter. The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness."

In an interview with PDN, he observed, "The great photography which operates at the core of the medium—from Frank to Eggleston to Shore to Winogrand—doesn’t fit that [traditional] model [of constructed, staged art], as it is taken from life directly, unscripted and unforced. That creates problems and is often misunderstood or marginalized as ‘documentary’ or ‘observational.’ ... sadly there’s a lot of folks that don’t get it, and prefer the traditional model."

Past recipients of the Hasselblad award have included William Eggleston, Nan Goldin, and Robert Adams. Jurors for this year's Hasselblad award included Clément Chéroux, a photography historian and curator with the  Centre Pompidou in Paris; art historian and critic Ekaterina Degot of Moscow; Ute Eskildsen head of the department of photography at Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany; Gao Shiming, a curator with the China Art Academy in Hangzhou, China; and Roberta Valtorta, Scientific Director of the Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea in Milan.

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