Beyond Caring – Paul Graham – 1984/5 – Site – Place -Context – 2012

Paul Graham is a photographer who is well known for being one of the first to use colour photos in social documentary photographs.

These images are taken from his series Beyond Caring (1984-85) where Graham travelled photographed waiting rooms around the UK, particularly those waiting for unemployment benefit. The purpose of these photos was to capture an aspect of British life that was overlooked and highlight the issues of the time. When these photos were taken the economy was in recession again and after Thatcher’s de-industrialisation of the North many people were left out of work.

The framing and aesthetics of the these photos are well observed. They are not as mocking or humorous as work by other social documentarian photographers such as Martin Parr and are much more thoughtful and downbeat. The colours of the image. although vivid seem washed out and not  pleasing to look at, such as the faded shade of orange of the plastic chairs in one of the waiting rooms. The images also looks closely at the people although the photographer choses to focus on both individuals and groups in naturalistic poses. The work could seem voyeuristic due to the natural nature of the photos but as the photos are taken in a waiting room, therefore a public space it seems ethically acceptable. Graham forces the viewer to examine the people in the photos, these are people that are rarely looked at properly and often are avoided by the general public which means that the work can sometimes be uncomfortable.

In my piece the photos I have taken are a form of social documentary however I took mine with permission of the residents and they are looking into the lens so they lack the natural  poses and possible voyeuristic concepts. Moreover Graham’s photos are quite depressing and do not suggest that the waiting rooms are positive place, comparatively I want to show where I have been working that it is a positive and friendly place. On that note I will have to carefully consider the lighting and the tone of my images and yellow and red tones tend to suggest warmth and comfort whereas blue and green tones suggest a cold atmosphere and a washed out feeling.

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