A shimmer of possibility
Loosely inspired by Chekhov’s short stories, a shimmer of possibility comprises a series of photographic short stories of everyday life in today’s America
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First published in late 2007, Paul Graham’s a shimmer of possibility was quickly hailed as “one of the most important advances in contemporary photographic practice that has taken place in a long while”, that it “redefines what a photobook can be”, and marked a “paradigm shift in photography”. The first edition, comprising 12 individual hardback books in an edition of 1,000 copies, sold out immediately. This second edition brings together the 12 books in one single volume at an accessible price.
Loosely inspired by Chekhov’s short stories, a shimmer of possibility comprises a series of photographic short stories of everyday life in today’s America. Each story is a small sequence of images, such as a man smoking a cigarette while he waits for a bus in Las Vegas, or a walk down a street in Boston on an autumn afternoon. Often two, three or four sequences intertwine in a single chapter, like separate but related lives co-existing in suburban America. Sometimes the quiet narrative breaks unexpectedly into a sublime moment – while a couple carry their shopping home in Texas a small child dances with a plastic bag in a garden; as a man cuts the grass in Pittsburgh it begins to rain and the low sun breaks through to illuminate every raindrop. These filmic haikus avoid the forceful summation we usually find in photography, shunning any tidy packaging of the world into perfect images. Instead, life simply flows around and past us while we stand and stare, quietly astonished by its beauty and grace. The radical form of this work is reflected in the book’s sequences, giving the flow of life precedence over conclusiveness, where nothing much happens, but nothing is foreclosed either, where everything shimmers with possibility.