Paul Strand

q? encoding=UTF8&Format= SL160 &ASIN=0900406828&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=vishaalslair 20&ServiceVersion=20070822Paul Strand was a pioneer of the modernist movement in photography.  His parents immigrated from Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) to New York City, where Strand was born in 20&l=as2&o=1&a=0900406828

He first took interest in photography after studying at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School under the direction of legendary documentary photographer Lewis Hine.  In 1907 Hine brought Strand to the Alfred Stieglitz’ 291 Gallery, where he introduced Strand to Stieglitz and to the work of modernist artists such as Picasso and Cezanne.
  Strand was inspired and thereafter sought to incorporate Cubist elements into his photography.
In 1911, Strand became a self-employed commercial photographer and exhibited his work at the New York Camera Club.  He photographed in the Pictorialist style, which emphasized darkroom manipulation to emulate the soft-focus look of paintings, but he gradually shifted away from the movement.  From 1915-1917, he was still using the Pictorialist soft-focus style but began to deemphasize perspective in favor of abstract compositions emphasizing tone and pattern.  During a visit to his family’s country house in Connecticut, Strand carried out an experiment fueled by his Cubist influences.  He took abstract photographs of fruits, bowls and jugs that he continuously changed in position and light.  He then decided to leave the objects alone, rearranging the camera’s position instead.  The result was a flipbook of sorts: a sequence of subtly varying photographs of abstract nature.
Back in New York, Strand mainly chose to focus on urban life.  He liked using high vantage points, exemplified in Wall Street (1915), which features the ant-like silhouettes of people walking by a comparatively monolithic building.  When he decided to take portraits of people in the slums, he had his camera outfitted to conceal a real lens to the right of the exposed, fake lens; he used this to capture candid expressions.
Strand rejected Pictorialism altogether in the 1920s and instead relied on the camera’s objectivity by using only photographic methods to produce his work. As an advocate of Straight (objective) Photography, Stieglitz certainly influenced Strand.  He also bolstered Strand’s popularity; he gave him an exhibition at the 291 Gallery and devoted the last two issues of Camera Work to Strand’s cross-country work.  His help propelled Strand to share Stieglitz’ rank as one of the leading modernist photographers.
After serving in World War I as an X-ray technician, Strand returned to the United States to work as a freelance movie cameraman.  He did not forget photography; he devoted all of his free time to it.  This time, however, he emphasized the beauty of natural forms and gained a new appreciation of landscape, which he believed revealed “the spirit of place.”
Strand’s increasing concern with social issues prompted him to change his focus from photography to motion pictures for the purpose of telling a clearer story to a wider audience.  He left to Mexico to work as both a cinematographer and photographer, later publishing his work in 1940 in The Mexican Portfolio.  In 1943 he reverted his focus back to photography and abandoned motion pictures.
After World War II, Strand was unhappy with the political situation in the United States and moved to France. He worked throughout Europe, focusing on issues concerning community life. He later produced a number of photographic books that featured a narrative sequence of images, channeling his previously-mentioned experiment in the country house.  These books, however, were often accompanied by text, so as a whole they mimicked the effects of cinema. His books on Europe include Time in New England (1950) and La France de profil (1952; “France in Profile”).  Strand also made books based on his extensive traveling in Ghana: Un Paese (1955), Tir A’Murhain (1962) and Ghana: An African Portrait.  Strand died at his home in France in 1976. 

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