Tutor Spotlight: Pat Graham

Since he was in high school in Wisconsin, Pat Graham has had a fascination with photography. The first time he was in that dim red light of a darkroom and witnessed the magic of an image emerging on the page, he was hooked. Pat is also a massive music fan. All he wanted to do was to be around music and for him, photography was the perfect way to pursue a career in music without being a musician. So, he moved 1000 miles from home and relocated to Washington DC. It was there he found a new home as part of the underground punk, activist, and art scene.

Image Credits: Pat Graham | Cool Hunting

That was when Pat began photographing bands and his artist friends. But the rent also needed to be paid so pat stuck close to his passion and took a job for the independent record label Simple Machines and at a camera shop.  The camera shop helped him learn as much as he could about the mechanics and capabilities of his equipment while also allowing him to continue as a gig photographer. The shop taught him about the equipment and the gigs taught him all about shooting live events under challenging conditions. It was these two great loves that would bring Pat on the road touring and photographing bands.   

Image Credits: Pat Graham | Cool Hunting

Through the Lens: Pat Graham's Visual Biography

Never one to settle, Pat also built a darkroom in his bedroom closet and after 5 years in the DC area he went on the road as a photographer/driver for his ex-flat mates’ new band Modest Mouse. That was the beginning of his 12 years on and off the road as the band photographer. These years also included touring with other bands such as Tortoise, Make Up, and June of 44 all across the USA, Europe and a stop in Japan.  

In 2003 Pat relocated to London where he co-founded the art gallery “96 Gillespie” and expanded his commercial work to include clients such as Rayban, Umbro, the V, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Fender and more. His work was also beginning to gain the attention of publishers with his first book Silent Pictures published by Ackashic in 2005, then Instrument (Chronicle 2011), and other work with musicians including Modest Mouse (Powerhouse 2014) and more recently Marr’s Guitars (Thames and Hudson 2023) with Johnny Marr. Pat first met Johnny when he was playing with Modest Mouse and touring in 2007-08 and they have remained friends to this day. Pat and Marr have collaborated on several other projects and books.   

Pat lives by the ethos of surrounding yourself with creative, like-minded people who will support and encourage each other.  He believes you must primarily pursue what interests you and what is true to you. He describes his work as a visual biography of his life, told through the lens.   

After years as a professional photographer and artist pat earned himself an MA in London, Westminster, and an MFA from the school of the art institute in Chicago.  

Image Credits: Pat Graham | The Guardian

From Darkrooms to Classrooms: Pat Graham's Artistic Journey

Today, Pat continues with his commercial work and art practice, and he is also tutor in the British Academy of Photography. He was first drawn to the role of tutor because of the academy’s approach to photography.  He feels the academy sets students up in a realistic way for a career in photography. He also finds it deeply rewarding to see students watch their vision come to life.  

Pat believes in imparting his respect for the manual capabilities of a camera as a way to truly understand how the camera can allow the full control needed to create meaningful images. And in this era of fast photography, he is guiding students towards the imperfections of manual modes. Even a “wrong” image can result in something beautiful helping students see past the convenience of the automatic world and how they can understand the automation to control it to their liking.  

Pat may have begun in the darkroom, but he respects the role of an educator and that it is his responsibility to remain informed. He appreciates the great advances technology has offered photography and how photography has never been more prevalent. He does, however, want to see less of the competitive nature of it and the pursuit of perfection but Pat is also a listener and is open to learning from his students. His approach to photography is a part DIY and a part restless artist. If there’s nothing to shoot, he goes and finds something, and this is what he passes on to his students. Be curious, get out there and create.  

He encourages his students to approach their surroundings as though they have never seen anything like it before. It is visual curiosity and empathy that he believes is key to creating great images.  


Fouzia Najeeb
at 2023-12-15 06:54

Congratulations Pat,
it seems like a fabulous combination of music and photographic
abilities. Looking forward to learn this skill with a more perfect imagination in this art form.

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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