The A1 was the first major road to run the entire length of England. Conceived as the central artery of the 1930s road system, the A1 travels from London, through the industrial Midlands and the north east of England, to Edinburgh. The 400 mile route was once the busiest road in the country, quickly receiving the title the ‘Great North Road’. In the late 1950s, however, the road was usurped by the fast and efficient motorway system.
In 1981 and 1982 Paul Graham travelled repeatedly along the A1 to record the people, buildings and landscape of Britain, with a large format camera. The resulting colour photographs were published by the artist in what is generally acknowledged to be one of the most influential photography books not least because of its exclusive use of colour. The works were exhibited widely at the time including in a British Council exhibition which travelled internationally.
Huxley-Parlour in collaboration with Anthony Reynolds Gallery are proud to present the first comprehensive exhibition of these works featuring the original vintage prints from the artist’s own collection.
A1 - The Great North Road provides an incisive historical document of the years of Margaret Thatcher’s government and the UK’s declining industrial base. By the time Graham photographed it in the 1980s, the road and its infrastructure were in a state of disuse, decline and atrophy. Uniting the tradition of social documentary with a fresh approach to colour, this ground-breaking work paved the way for a new generation of British colour photographers to emerge. It has since become a defining photobook of the twentieth century which was confirmed in 2011 by the acquisition of the complete original set of book prints by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The exhibition will include some rarely seen images from the series which were not included in the book alongside familiar photographs such as the still-life of a Bible at Blyth Services, a woman at a bus stop in Mill Hill in North London and young executives outside the Bank of England. The combination of landscapes, interiors, still-lives and portraits in A1 – The Great North Road collectively present a compelling picture of Britain in a time of great social change.
Paul Graham (b.1956) is a British photographer living and working in New York City. Graham has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, the Hasselblad Award and received a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has been the subject of more than eighty solo exhibitions worldwide.
Press release courtesy Huxley-Parlour.