James and I met while working at a small video production company in 1990. We were independent contractors working on projects with my friends Malcolm and Brian. James was new to the city, and I far from it. Regardless, a friendship blossomed. We worked on projects for that company and others, spending much time working like crazy, and laughing. We would get together even when not working together, often drinking too much, and always talking. Soon, it was my time to leave the city, while the others stayed. We remained in touch, although my travels took me other places, and I lost contact with the others. That is, until recently. Through the wonders of blogs and FaceBook, all four have been back in touch, and even enjoyed a fine dinner in the city, the four of us, as well as Mal's lovely wife, Helen.
Photography by James M. Graham
During one of my trips to the city, I learned of an upcoming monograph of his work, spotlighting James' amazing talent. His photographs have been shown internationally. Recently, I stayed at James' apartment, and really spent some time with his photographs, marveling at how they not only captured something really special about the subject, but also something intrinsic in James himself. Indeed, it was definitely his vision of the world that was being captured in the frames, a story being told through the eyes of the subject, as well as the other elements in the print. Each shot said something, everything from a gut feeling to a short story to a full-length novel. All you have to do is open your eyes and mind.
Photography by James M. Graham
The photographer and filmmaker has lived in NYC for over twenty years, hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina. We had much in common, as well as strong differences. We loved music, and went to see The Cure in concert. We shared many similar political views, and loved to enjoy ourselves. In other ways, we were very different. James was heterosexual, and I was not. James had an appreciation of fine clothing, while I would just as soon wear t-shirts and jeans. And we loved spending time together.
So, with the recent publishing of Some Of This Might Be True, I knew I wanted to mark the occasion by asking James a few questions. Actually, I had written an email with 10 questions, asking him to answer them and photo requests. Part of my request was as follows: "Would also like to use some pictures: like one of you, a Bunny, and two or so other shots that could run on my blog - so no lady-bits! " James, of course, felt the need to answer not only my questions, but also what I had written. "My dear, but of course. I'll send you answers and appropriate photos quickly. 'No lady bits' - I love you... James" With that, I knew this could be trouble. Or brilliant. I pray for the latter.
S2MD: Some Of This Is True was recently released. Now that it is out of your hands, how do you feel about it?
JMG: At the book signing/launch party, I was overwhelmed. I felt like a rock star. We sold half of the 1st printing in one night and I got to spend 5 minutes with everyone that bought one. I wanted to go home with everyone and take their photograph, but the best I could do was just sign books. A bunch of fans and friends bought me whiskey.
S2MD: The book is divided up into two sections, Bunnies and Chair pictures. Were they shot for the book, or were they a catalyst for the book?
JMG: Luxxus Press picked both. And we agreed that it would be a good mix. Both were older, unpublished photos. Languishing, just sitting there. And now they're not.
S2MD: Much of your work is Black & White, but your use of color in shots is interesting as well. Do you have a preference?
JMG: I think in B&W, but I am trying to master color. B&W speaks to me, it's my sensibility, it's how I see the world. Color is hard. I can't develop it in my kitchen, but I am disciplining myself to shoot it more and more.
S2MD: I find a certain bit of Film Noire in your work, as well as a bit of Cinema Verité. Is that the way you see the world?
JMG: Yes. I consider myself a bit of an amateur film scholar - totally busted, that's my direction. A frame from a film that you've never seen. But - hopefully - you wonder what happened right before and right after. And if you don't, I've failed.
S2MD: Do you enjoy shooting for fun, or is it strictly an artistic endeavor for you?
JMG: It comes and goes. And it depends on my mood. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. When the MUSE grabs you, and I don't mention that lightly, the MUSE grabs you. You cannot make that happen nor should you try. You should just acknowledge it. And shoot. Other times, minus the MUSE, it's practice with the hope that you may stumble across something.
S2MD: Has living in NYC influenced your vision?
JMG: I live here. I moved here on purpose. Of course it has influenced me. That said, I think New York bears two kinds of people: people who can live here and people who run away. I haven't left since 1989...this is my home. The answer is 'yes.'
S2MD: Does music influence your shooting ever? What might you play, if you do, for a shoot?
JMG: I am a failed musician. By that, I mean that I actually have no musical talent. But I understand music. I know when something is bad or off. And I know what I like. Right now I'm listening to Fantomas. Have you heard their Rosemary's Baby theme? Awesome. Mike Patton and Buzz Osborne are geniuses. Everyone reading this should listen to it right now. And I mean RIGHT NOW! [You heard him, check them out here!] Does music influence my shooting? There are very few moments where I do not hear music in my head. The answer is 'yes.'
S2MD: Who would you like to book for a session? Or where would you like to shoot that you haven't?
JMG: PJ Harvey. Patti Smith. Juliette Lewis. Do you see a pattern here? Location? Depends on the subject. Maybe an abandoned missile silo...
S2MD: How has being a Southern boy influenced your photography?
JMG: Not. That's not true. I don't know.
S2MD: Finally, more fun: New York City 1992 or 2010 [exceptionally good times with the interviewer excluded]?
JMG: Ohhhh, all I want to talk about is fun times with you, Howard.
My message from James in my copy of the book.
For more from James M. Graham, you can check out his blog here, where James combines his photography, the music he loves, and blogging for a very revealing take. Or you can visit his website to get a better representation of his work here. I suspect it is obvious I love the book, so I really must say if you'd like to buy, you can find it here.