The name Paul Strand may ring a bell; you may be familiar with his work. However, on attending the exhibition curator Peter Barberie’s talk, I was ignorantly unaware of just how significant Paul Strand’s impact was on the 20th century.
Revered as one of the greatest photographers of his time, Strand defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today. His body of work and use of platinum printing has had a significant influence on the social, political and artistic powers of photography, urging the viewer to ask questions about society, modern art, the substance of context depicted…
Are we as a society blind or is just this homeless woman? Are we returning to our idealistic house in New England or are we looking afar on to something inaccessible to us? Why are the tiny scale of humans versus the neoclassical architecture of Wall Street deemed so menacing here? Just some of the questions prompted by his work below.
This exhibition, hosted at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is the first comprehensive look at Strand’s career in the UK for over 40 years, presenting works which span his entire career. Accessible to the viewer are Strand’s descriptive ability to photograph: experiments with abstract frames, what is widely thought of as the first avant-garde film, and his collection of images made on his global travels beginning in New York in 1910 and ending in France in 1976. Amongst his work, more tangible items — exquisite vintage prints, films, books, notebooks, sketches and Strand’s own cameras — provide an insight into the way he carried out his work: slow, methodically with extreme precision, unless photographing someone who was unaware (as seen above), in which case he worked in a fast manner.
Arranged both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition broadens our understanding to expose Strand as an international photographer and filmmaker with work spanning myriad geographic regions and social and political issues.
By Kate Goudsmit