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Paul Graham, Pittsburgh (detail), 2004 nine ink-jet prints, this one 30 x 40". From the series “A Shimmer Possibility,” 2004–2006.

Paul Graham

High Museum of Art

Paul Graham, Pittsburgh (detail), 2004 nine ink-jet prints, this one 30 x 40". From the series “A Shimmer Possibility,” 2004–2006.

Paul Graham’s photography practice has long been driven by an insatiable wanderlust: He’s documented travels to Japan, throughout Europe, around his native Britain, and across the vast expanse of America. The exhibition “The Whiteness of the Whale” at the High Museum of Art homed in on Graham’s portrayals of the last. Consisting of more than forty works from Graham’s three major stateside projects—“American Night,” 1998–2002; “A Shimmer Possibility,” 2004–2006; and “The Present,” 2009–11—this show made a case for the photograph’s capacity to encourage active looking, incite empathy, and awaken political consciousness, if in sometimes heavy-handed and theatrical terms.

Across the three bodies of work Graham repeats the same visual metaphor about our inability to truly “see.” “The Present” is populated by white canes for the blind and figures squinting or wearing eye patches;

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