Storyteller: Graham Cook, UK
"On the streets of New York, time moves differently: fast and unrelenting. The constant passing of people and time forgoes the city that never sleeps, from among it come these quiet visual spaces. Within the frame, the city finds order. Between each beat in the city's rhythm, there's a pause: a quiet that punctuates the flow.
Imagine each photograph as these individual beats."
- Joe Coleman
How long have you been taking photos and what inspires you to do so?
It’s been twenty years since my photography interest became an obsession. Photography is in my work life but it's also personal, as an artist I consider myself lucky that I can mix the two. In terms of what inspires me, it's an interest in life, what makes us us, how we differ, how we are the same, cultural comparisons and a passion to create.
What does photography mean to you?
Existence. It’s my way of cheating death, a museum to myself and the people and places that became a part of my journey. What I create will outlive me and will hopefully live on. At least generations down the line will have the opportunity to look through my eyes. I would like to think that I will leave more than a bloodline through an ancestry website for future generations to discover.
What inspires you creatively?
What I respond to with my camera on the street. The possibilities that random interventions could lead to a new idea or a new body of work. The freedom of viewing the world within a small rectangle of a larger story, to reveal an emotional connection at more than just surface level.
What compelled you to exhibit a photography collection spanning two decades in a single photo book?
Photography, compared to other visual arts, transcends naturally into book form and the 'New York Minute' body of work needed to sit together in one place. The book format brings structure to narrative and has the power to change the narrative direction, so editing is just as important as taking the photographs. The book was a part of my Master Degree portfolio, it was implemented in my final end of year show and was the best way to provide the audience with the full story in a limited space.
What is your favorite image from the book and why?
Wall St Walk (above left) is my favorite image in this series. I love the graphic nature and the use of line and contrast. The power of the stride push notions of business, money and power. I sat on the steps of the Federal Hall and framed the line of the pavement and waited for suits to step into the frame. This image has developed into a signature within my work, in which I have been influenced by photographers such as Saul Leiter, William Klein and Ralph Gibson.
What is your favorite story/memory behind a single shot in the book?
My last visit to New York coincided with an event called Manhattanhenge. Twice a year the sun sets directly in between the high rises and casts a shaft of golden light down the streets upon the pedestrian anarchy that come out to witness the event. Pre-meditated and knowing that I had a limited time frame I positioned myself on a cross section of 5th Avenue 23rd street next to the iconic Flat Iron building. When the light was right I took my stage and photographed the onlookers (above), some puzzled that my camera was pointing at them instead of the sun. This is what I was interested in, the volume of spectators crammed in a space at a certain point of time. Revealing a sea of expressions, recording it on their mobile phones/cameras or just revealing in the suns heat upon their face; the challenge was to frame such chaos.
What bit of advice would you offer to someone creating their own MILK book?
Book sequence has the potential to create a narrative or confuse a narrative so you need to be clear what you are trying to project and who your target audience is. I always make a book maquette to try and get a feel of what the finished product might look like. The sequence, size and design are all important factors, all of which need adequate time to refine. But the most valuable advice is to get other opinions and responses to your book. Artists, photographers and designers might point out something that you have not considered which might be critical to the outcome of a successful book.
Graham Cook works as a Photographic Technician and Photographic/Visual Artist in the South West of England.
His practice can best be described as street photography, and is at the core of his departure.