I asked how the artist gets himself into the mindset of each character—expecting, perhaps, a tale of mindful meditation or full-blown Daniel Day-Lewis theatrics. The real answer is more pedestrian. Each image involves less acting, he said, than simple posing. “It’s all just about micromovements,” he explained. “It’s very uncomfortable, actually. Trying to look relaxed, but: ‘Could you tilt your head a little that way, [make] your knuckle go like that?’” The potentials of digital photography, Graham added, mean that these minute adjustments—a glance, a look, the angle of a wrist—can all be retooled in the studio in real-time.
As he’s gotten older, Graham has had to constrain himself to age-appropriate characters. “There’s a certain degree of accepting what I look like, and the roles defined by that,” he said. “They’re more limited now. Eventually, I’m going to have to retire as an actor.” Until that point, though, we can look forward to at least a few more iterations of Rodney Graham—an artist who knows that sometimes, being yourself is highly overrated.