All Articles
All Articles


Photographer Pat Graham takes us on tour with the band in his new book

by Karen Day
on 07 October 2011
instrument-cover.jpg instrument-James-Cauty.jpg

When you can't get that riff out of your head, or feel compelled to turn the music up a notch, it's the instruments at play. Lyrics play second fiddle in any song with a sick drum beat, electrifying guitar solo or melodious piano part. But as the physical extension of a musician, instruments take a beating. Documenting what they endure on the road and off is London-based photographer Pat Graham, who demonstrates how beautiful a worn-out guitar or a blood-covered drum set can be in his aptly-titled book "Instrument."

Appearing everywhere from Rolling Stone covers to Modest Mouse album jackets, Graham's photos have been an essential part of music history for the past decade. Having toured with bands several times, Graham illustrates the relationships he's forged with musicians and their machines in the new book, demonstrating both his skills as a photographer and the adoration he has for his subject. Accompanying the compelling visuals are the captivating stories, including short renditions by each of the 50 featured musicians—from Johnny Marr to Hal Blaine—about how they acquired their instrument, and what it means to them.

We caught up with Graham to tell us more about the documenting process, and how he captures all of the magic that happens on the road. See his interview below, pick up the forthcoming book from Amazon and check out more information about the images after the jump.

Instrument is about relationships. What role do they play in the final product?

It means a lot to me, as the artist trusted me, as an artist, to photograph something very personal to them. While I shot a lot of these photos, I was having conversations with the musicians about what I should photograph and why. I would hope the final product or piece of art is inspiring to the musician and anyone viewing it.

What drew you to narrow your focus to instruments?

I liked the way instruments looked in photos and on stage. I also wanted to photograph something in music that was not really photographed before. I love photography and being able to photograph hidden landscapes in my favorite musicians' instruments seemed like a good idea.

instrument-kurt-cobain.jpg instrument-bon-hiver.jpg
Can you tell us about the process of compiling all the instruments in the book?

I started it around 1995. The series really took off in 2007 when Johnny Marr kickstarted me into action. The project then gained momentum. Each shoot usually had around 150-200 shots, unless I had a very limited amount of time.

I used as many of my cameras as I had time for. I really wanted to capture as many angles as I could. And I also thought it was important to shoot with film and digital. I asked friends to be in the book, and those friends asked their friends about contributing. The book was formed out of my love for photography and music, and also the love musicians have for their instruments.


I have toured with many bands as the photographer and while on tour, I would shoot as many instruments that inspired and crossed my path. Modest Mouse was a great inspiration for the book, as well as the band I was on tour with the most. As we traveled from town to town I would ask if anyone knew of any cool musicians/instruments in that town. For example, Isaac Brock said, "when [you] go through Oklahoma, you have to shoot the Flaming Lips stuff—it is amazing."

instrument-kim-gordon.jpg instrument-wayne-coyne.jpg
Johnny Marr writes a brilliant foreword. What was it like to shoot his Fender Jaguar?

Johnny really liked my pictures of Ian Mackaye's SG and I had mentioned wanting to photograph Johnny's guitars. I was on tour with Johnny and Modest Mouse at the time so we were together 24-7. I wanted to photograph his Black Jaguar at the right time and place. At the end of tour the band was playing the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. This was the place where the Grand Ole Opry had happened, and pretty much all the great country musicians had played on its stage.

Johnny told me how his parents were huge country music fans and were really proud that their son was playing the Ryman. In fact, I believe Johnny called them from the stage. That day I photographed Johnny in and around the Ryman. I felt this was the perfect place to photograph his black Jag. The photos show his guitar on the same stage that so many greats had been on.

Is the instrument a reflection of the artist, the music, or something else entirely?

The Instrument is a reflection of the artist and the music that instrument has played. An instrument is also a representation of a time period.

What do you see when you look at a guitar?

This depends on the guitar. I see lines, landscapes, blood, misshapes, design, etc.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity
Loading More...