Music and media pop and move. We are digital and online. Genres slide into each other, constantly bounding forward. That’s why Pat Graham’s new photography book, Silent Pictures, is so important: it’s an anchor to link us to the past. Silent Pictures is his first book, showcasing underground rock at its finest through the past two decades. The collection features bands as diverse as Modest Mouse, Outkast, Elliot Smith, Fugazi, Thievery Corporation, Built To Spill and The Shins, on the road and backstage, in a mode that is raw, dirty, lonely, triumphant, gritty and real.
Graham, a Milwaukee native, spoke to VITAL from his London gallery, 96 Gillespie, to discuss Silent Pictures, being on the road with Modest Mouse and future projects. For more information, visit 96gillespie.com or modestmouse.com/photoblog.
Define Silent Pictures – what’s its attitude?
It’s a photography book, plain and simple. It’s about the images, and hopefully it’ll help expose the road life of bands. We put a lot of thought into the editing, assembling the book like a record to balance quiet and explosive moments. We want to grab attention and get people to stop flipping, to really engage them and get them to inspect interesting photos. With digital photos, we flip to quick. With this book, we want you to stop in your tracks.
Describe your evolution as a photographer in the rock world.
I was born in Milwaukee and kicked around a bit. I started shooting photos at Café Voltaire in Milwaukee around age 17 and studied photography at UWM. Soon after school, I moved to Washington DC. I had a friend that was in bands out there. That’s what kickstarted my photography at shows. I really got into the scene. Shot a lot of Fugazi in ‘91-‘92. It was around that time I started touring with Modest Mouse. It was me with the three guys and a van. It was bare bones, man. I’d do merch, drive a lot, move gear in and out of shows; shooting the whole time. I still tour with them regularly and post photos on their tour blog. I’ve also had the good fortune to have work printed in major European and U.S. music publications like Rolling Stone.
Doing exhibitions with my wife Melanie Standage – it’s the process of setting them up and seeing things on the wall. Our shows “Past Perfect” or “Wildebeest” were fun to do. The book is a great thing to do and have done but there’s something about showcasing the real prints that always exciting. Also, the Experience Music Project in Seattle purchased a number of my prints for their collection which is a great feeling, too.
What’s up in the UK?
I founded 96 Gillespie with my wife. It’s a London gallery that features a lot of American artists. It’s a place to start a dialogue between UK and US artists. Describe your evolution as a photographer in the rock music world.
Where do you go from here? What’s next?
We are constantly programming new exhibitions for the gallery. I am also organizing Polaroids that present life in general around the bands and personal photos too, possibly for another book. We have a big exhibition coming up at Rough Trade East in London. They are one of the last remaining labels/record stores and they are an absolute music institution. They’ll display prints from the book.