Paul Strand’s Work Exhibited in UK for First Time in Decades

Curators’ Corner

Paul Strand’s Work Exhibited in UK for First Time in Decades

He may have gotten his start snapping pictorialist photos of the ever-changing streets of New York City in the early 20th Century, but the late Paul Strand etched his legacy by helping to establish photography as a reputable and viable art form. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London recently displayed Strand’s work spanning pictorialism, abstractionism, photography, film, and even the nexus between documentary and photography. It was the first Strand exhibition in the UK in nearly 40 years, as the American photographer is often forgotten across the pond.

The Family, Paul Strand

The Family, Paul Strand, 1953, Luzzara (The Lusettis). © Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

“The artist’s world is limitless,” Strand famously said. “It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.”

Born in 1890, Strand immediately took after his earliest influence and mentor, Lewis W. Hine, as he documented social change through his surprisingly candid images of New York’s inhabitants. After Hine introduced Strand to American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Strand’s photography shifted from one of “graphic softness” to sharp documentary. The metamorphosis continued throughout his career as he emphasized social change through new mediums, and explored natural and machine forms from New England to Mexico; Morocco to Scotland.

Blind , Paul Strand

BLIND, 1916 / © 1997, Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Now recognized as one of the greatest modernist photographers to ever live – alongside the likes of Stieglitz and Edward Weston – Strand possessed the ability to capture subjects uncannily indiscriminately.

Young Boy, Paul Strand

Young Boy, Paul Strand, 1951, Gondeville, Charente, France. © Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

Martin Barnes, who curated the recent exhibition in London, chose to portray Strand’s less iconic work, focusing on a selection of images that as a whole “challenges the popular perception of Strand as primarily a photographer of American places and people of the early 20th Century,” he told the Washington Post. Though the photographs show Strand’s extensive travels, the real gems are the work from his only project native to the United Kingdom, which includes shots of South Uist in the Hebrides from 1954, shown below.

Sea Rocks and Sea, Paul Strand

Sea Rocks and Sea, The Atlantic, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954, © Paul Strand, Aperture Foundation

Croft, Loch Carnan, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Paul Strand

Croft, Loch Carnan, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954. © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive. Photograph: Scottish National Portrait Gallery