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Paul Strand

Paul Strand was born in New York City on October 16, 1890. His father gave him his first camera when he was twelve. In 1907, he enrolled at the Ethical Culture School where he was strongly influenced by one of his teachers, Lewis W. Hine. The class visited Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery and Strand was exposed to the Pictorialist style of photography, including Stieglitz, Steichen, White, Kasebier, Cameron, and painters such as Picasso. Hine influenced Strand in his belief that photography “forced youngsters to recognize what is good in composition by selection from the infinite objects about them”.

Some of this early work, like the well-known “Wall Street,” experimented with formal abstractions. Other of Strand’s works reflect his interest in using the camera as a tool for social reform. He was one of the founders of the Photo League, an association of photographers who advocated using their art to promote social and political causes.

In 1920 his social consciousness led him to explore the relationship between art and politics and to devote his career to progressive causes, turning to cinematography for a decade, from about 1920 to 1930. In 1934 Strand helped found Frontier Films, a documentary film company dedicated to pro-labor causes. Strand remained an active photographer while working in film, but his subject matter changed. He concentrated on images of farmers and villagers in New England and Mexico, expressing nostalgia and admiration for a simpler life. In 1936 Strand joined with Berenice Abbott to establish the Photo League in New York. Its initial purpose was to provide the socialist press with photographs of trade union activities and political protests.

Although Strand is best known for his early abstractions, his return to still photography in this later period produced some of his most significant work in the form of six book ‘portraits’ of place: Time in New England (1950), La France de Profil (1952), Un Paese (featuring photographs of Luzzara and the Po River Valley in Italy, 1955), Tir a’Mhurain / Outer Hebrides [1] (1962), Living Egypt (1969) and Ghana: an African portrait (1976).

Paul Strand, New York from the Park, 1916

Paul Strand, New York, 1917

Paul Strand, Photograph, 1917

Pail Strand, Ranchos de Taos Church, New Mexico, 1931

Paul Strand, Farmer's Daughter, Luzzara, 1953

Paul Strand, Couple, South Uist, 1954

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