Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Silent Pictures; Pat Graham

Written by Jonathan Feinstein

Since the early 90's, Pat Graham has been photographing seminal bands of the American underground music scene. You might recognize Pat's modern-classic image of Kathleen Hannah and Tobi Vail splayed out on the stage floor during a Bikini Kill show from the cover of their album, "The CD Version of the First Two Records", their arms and legs trailed by ghosts from off-camera flash, long exposures, and camera movement. This spontaneous and off-the-cuff style is on display throughout Pat's new collection of photographs, Silent Pictures.

Since the early 90's, Pat Graham has been photographing seminal bands of the American underground music scene. You might recognize Pat's modern-classic image of Kathleen Hannah and Tobi Vail splayed out on the stage floor during a Bikini Kill show from the cover of their album, "The CD Version of the First Two Records", their arms and legs trailed by ghosts from off-camera flash, long exposures, and camera movement. This spontaneous and off-the-cuff style is on display throughout Pat's new collection of photographs, Silent Pictures.

Silent Pictures presents a retrospective of Pat's work from the early 90's to the present. The book opens with a shot of one of the most influential underground bands of the early 90's, Nation Of Ulysses, performing at a small club in Washington, D.C. in 1992, and continues to include photos ranging from live shots in suburban basements to a closing image of Modest Mouse's Jeremiah Green riding his bike in a San Diego bowling alley parking lot in 2000. Pat's initial photos encompass a scene that existed before "indie rock" was as largely recognized as it is today. His subjects range from more obscure or defunct bands like, Born Against, Slant 6, and Unrest, to bands who, in the past few years, have become household names, like The Shins, Ted Leo, and even Outkast.  He captures each with raw and unpredictable energy.

While many photographic anthologies are edited chronologically, Silent Pictures relies purely on visual experience and pays almost no attention to time. The viewer travels alongside the bands throughout the book—at one moment, in the center of Fugazi's three drum kits on their 2002 world tour, and at another, drinking coffee in a random diner with Ian Svenonius and The Makeup. This organization gives the viewer a constant sense of being "along for the ride," and illustrates the humility and accessibility of the bands as people and friends, blurring the boundaries between musician and spectator. In other sections, live shots are juxtaposed with close-ups of tour van tires covered in icicles; Built to Spill's Doug Martsch is placed beside a detail of a weathered fretboard while flames emerge from a tractor trailer on the opposite side of a highway; and Polaroids and contact sheets are scattered throughout. This style of personal and spontaneous, yet selective, editing makes the book stand out not only as an anthology of music photography, but as a testament to a subculture and the lives lived within it.


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