September 12th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Paige Richmond Music | Posted In: Columns

The Kid Stays in the Picture: Extended Q&A with Pat Graham

Pat Graham's Silent Pictures
WW recently spoke with indie-rock photographer Pat Graham about his first published collection of snapshots, Silent Pictures. But Graham is a walking history book of the '90s indie rock scene, and the few questions published in this week's music feature were just a sampling of what he knows. Graham's pictures serve as visual timeline for bands like Modest Mouse, while his personal anecdotes put a different face on the indie scene. Read on for Graham's thoughts on photography and fame.

WW: Most of the photos are a decade old. Why wait until now to put out the book?
Books are actually really, really hard to do. If you imagine doing, like, the artwork for a record or like one record cover and the multiply that by like 144 pages. It takes a lot. That's one reason, but also, I haven't really had the chance to put it together. I've been all over the place. I've finally been stationary for a while. There are photos in there from a few years ago, so it goes back a decade but it covers a long range. And I guess long story short, it's extremely hard to do, just gathering content really and finding the time.

What changes have you witnessed in the indie scene over the past decade?
A lot of bands grow and get more popular…They won't be playing at a venue where you're at the same level photographing them; they're on a higher stage. You know, there's a pit [where] all the photographers are taking pictures for three songs and that's it. It's a lot less intimate. Some of the bands I've worked with have gone that route. But there's a few bands out there with the same kind of energy that was going on back then, and that has been going on forever, really. Like this past year, I worked a lot with Against Me! I did a lot of photos for this live record that they did, and I haven't seen a band in a long time that had as much energy as them. It reminded me of seeing bands from back in the day, because they were really into it and really great to photograph.

Do you find that the younger a band is, the more camera ready or eager they are?
In a way, it does tend to be younger bands that really don't like cameras. There's certain bands I can think of that really weren't into getting their picture taken at all, but as they developed as musicians and stayed in the whole business of playing music, they kind of didn't mind having their pictures taken in the end…As bands get older, they get their pictures taken so much they know how to deal with the camera or how they want to look and hopefully the photographer they are working with will respect them on that. It's just people's personalities, really. You have to recognize that if someone doesn't like having their picture taken, you know, to just back off.

How do you make a band feel comfortable around the camera if you're touring with them?
You just have to have your camera with you all the time. You hope that you're with someone so much that they start asking, “Take of picture of me with this!” Recently, we were in Nashville and Modest Mouse played the Ryman Auditorium, which is where the original Grand Ole Opry was, and Johnny Marr--his parents are huge country fans. So for their son to play there was a huge deal. I really wanted to document him there and that whole experience, so we did all these portraits. He really wanted pictures there, and I wanted to get his picture there.

We have small local music scene in Portland, but some the of bands in your book are bigger-name, successful acts. What about Portland makes it a good fit to showcase your book?
There's great bookstores there. And I have a bunch of friends who live there. I did an exhibition with my partner there at the Newspace Gallery about a couple years ago and everyone was really receptive to it and we got lots of press. It seems like people really respect art and music out there. And, you know, I want to see Isaac's house.

Photo from the cover of Silent Pictures taken from the book's MySpace page.

Graham will discuss the book at the Ace Hotel on Monday, Sept. 17. 5:30 pm. Free. All ages. Rumor has it, Isaac Brock will be introducing him.
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