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[The Guardian] The big picture: cafe culture on the road
by The Guardian « on: September 29, 2020, 07:05:35 PM »




The big picture: cafe culture on the road

Paul Graham captured early-80s Britain in his colour photographs of people and places along the A1

Paul Graham took this photograph nearly 40 years ago as part of his first serious photographic project, a road trip along the A1, the Great North Road, from its beginning at the Bank of England to its end at the central post office in Edinburgh. Graham was 25. As a child, his family’s annual holidays had begun with an overnight journey up Britain’s ancient spine, with its evocative junctions – Comet Roundabout, Selby Fork and Scotch Corner – and “to an impressionable five-year-old, travelling up the Great North Road seemed a close contender to visiting the moon”.

By 1981, that romance had dimmed. The Romans’ time-honoured route north had long been usurped by the M1 motorway. Graham was, like far too many young men that year, unemployed. He revisited the road in a Morris Mini Traveller, borrowed from his partner’s grandmother. He had two rules: “not to photograph as though this was an American road trip and not to take images from a moving car window”. This picture, one of several taken in cafes and service stations along the route, was characteristic of Graham’s emerging visual language – the blue work-clothes of the men had them vanish quietly into the slabs of colour on the glossed walls. The orange formica of the 1950s shouted something bleaker than retro.

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