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Hatje Cantz : Donald Graham : One of a Kind


Authenticity, honesty, and trust characterize Donald Graham’s portraits. They are not simply photographic recordings. Looking at them is like seeing human beings in the flesh, revealed to us by Graham with his virtuoso technique and sensibilities. His exquisite, strongly contrasting black-and-white photographs are evidence of attitude, rather than studied gestures. Eyes and faces are not model-like masks; instead, they express the unique nature of those portrayed. Inevitably, viewers find themselves in a dialogue with the images. You wonder about the stories behind these faces; though unfamiliar, they are nevertheless an emotional experience.

One of a Kind (Hatje Cantz, April 2021), the first comprehensive monograph by internationally renowned photographer Donald Graham, brings together over 100 of his brilliant portraits spanning a wide cultural and social spectrum. Made in India, Tibet, Jamaica, Mali, Europe and throughout the United States, there is a unique story in every face, punctuated by combinations of strength and vulnerability. Graham writes: “These portraits come from a desire to honor the beauty of uniqueness, character, and imperfection while remaining sensitive to the pain of the human experience. Every life is one of a kind, never to be repeated. These are tough stories told with grace.” Reproduced in a four-color process, the printed photographs seem almost tangible, fully revealing Graham’s outstanding oeuvre.

One of a Kind began more than 30 years ago when Graham decided to make a portrait of his mother. She had Multiple Sclerosis, compounded by a severe stroke. Her body was ravaged, and she could barely speak, yet she lived with a gracefulness, an inner peace, and a smile that inspired her son. He took a photograph of her that “revealed who I knew her to be and honored the complexity of her situation. Her portrait began this series of photographs. It became the standard by which I judged all subsequent photographs I made.”

In his illuminating essay, noted curator, writer, and educator Colin Westerbeck writes eloquently on Graham’s portrait of his mother, as well as other subjects, including the largest single community from which subjects for One of a Kind were drawn: Taos, New Mexico. “In part the attraction of Taos was its history as a haven for artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Strand in the pre-war era … More importantly for Graham, the attraction was that, as he puts it, ‘Taos has three separate cultures; you have an Anglo-American culture, a Spanish-American culture, and a Native American culture … I wanted to photograph all three cultures.’ Most important was that the culture of Taos also provided Graham with a very special chance for his photographs to be made in the service of a charitable cause … ‘Non-Violence Works.’ Along with counseling, guidance, mentoring and gang resistance for youth at risk, the organization offers domestic violence rehabilitation … Over ten years, Graham photographed more than 500 local people, from gardeners to senators.”

In the preface, Casey Woods, a writer and columnist at The Miami Herald, describes a shoot she attended with Graham out of which came one of his most famous portraits: Boy with Bible, Little Rock, Arkansas. “After the church service we stood out front in the late summer blaze of Arkansas sun.  I watched the little boy step up on the white background, clutching his Bible.  ‘Do you want me to smile?’, he said, staring wide-eyed at the camera lens.  ‘Just be yourself”, Don said.  The boy’s face flooded with relief and he stood a little taller, gazing at Don evenly.  I held my breath as I watched them together, knowing it would be one of the best pictures of the shoot.” Westerbeck also writes about the photograph describing the boy as one of Graham’s most poignant subjects.

While the focus of the book is everyday people, One of a Kind also presents a selection of less common citizens, among them:  performers Aidan Quinn, Snoop Dogg and Lenny Kravitz, photographer Gordon Parks, writer James Elroy and, from the George W. Bush presidency, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dan Quayle.

In an era of divisiveness, One of A Kind is a story in photographs of the great diversity that we find in this world, told in a way that recognizes the common struggles and triumphs that we each experience.

The book is edited by the Los Angeles Gallerist and Curator David Fahey.


About the Photographer:

Donald Graham is an internationally recognized portrait, fashion, and fine art photographer. His work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the International Center of Photography. His photographs have appeared in over 400 publications, he has done advertising campaigns for numerous Fortune 500 companies and Graham’s photographs have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Munich. Graham began his career in Paris as a fashion photographer. He then shifted his work to New York and Los Angeles where he broadened his photography to include portraiture for the movie, music, magazine, and advertising industries and began devoting significant time to fine-art. During his career, Graham has expanded his unique point of view with extensive travels through Europe, India, Tibet, Africa, and southeast Asia. He has received awards from Nikon, Hassleblad, Communication Arts, the American Society of Magazine Photographers, among others.




Essay by Colin Westerbeck

Foreword by Casey Woods

Preface by Donald Graham

Edited by David Fahey

Published by Hatje Cantz

Hardcover, 10 x 13 in.

224 pgs / 100 color.

ISBN 9783775746915

List Price: $95.00 CDN $133.00



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