In Pictures

Photographic pioneer Paul Strand on show

A major retrospective of the influential American photographer Paul Strand is being held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the first time his work has been seen on this scale in the UK for more than 40 years.

Wall Street, New York Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

Many of Strand's pictures are well known to photographic historians, from his early work in New York to that in the north of Scotland and his time in Italy.

Martin Barnes, curator of the exhibition, said: "Strand was one of great photographers of the 20th Century. He expanded the way we think about both fine art photography and documentary practice.

"Strand combined the two approaches and many photographers today make pictures that refer to him, perhaps without knowing it."

Blind woman, New York Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption Blind woman, New York

One of Strand's best-known pictures is on show. It depicts a blind woman on the streets of New York in 1916.

At that time Strand was working without the knowledge of his subjects, using a decoy lens on his camera, fooling them into thinking he was photographing something else. The ethics of photography are still widely discussed, and the "blind" notice brings this to the fore and questions the act of looking.

White Fence, Port Kent, New York, 1916 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption White Fence, Port Kent, New York, 1916

White Fence, Port Kent, New York is almost a defining image of America. The fence that is both apparitional and yet divides at the same time. It's also a beautiful picture.

Camera Work Magazine Image copyright Phil Coomes / BBC

Strand's work was published by Alfred Stieglitz in the final edition of Camera Work, an influential photographic journal of the time. Stieglitz wrote that Strand's pictures were "Devoid of all flim-flam; devoid of trickery and of any 'ism,' devoid of any attempt to mystify."

Stieglitz believed Strand's work was a new direction for photography.

Rebecca, New York, 1921 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption Rebecca, New York, 1921

Strand also took a series of pictures of his first wife, artist Rebecca Salisbury.

The Family Luzzara, The Lusettis, 1953 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption The Family Luzzara, The Lusettis, 1953

In 1953 Strand spent more than five weeks in the village of Luzzara on the Po River in Italy.

Here a mother and sons pose for his camera - the father was absent, having been killed by political opponents for his communist beliefs.

Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954

In 1954 Strand travelled to the Hebrides in Scotland having been inspired to visit the area when he heard a Gaelic folk song on the BBC. As with much of his work, Strand embedded himself with the community, taking time to understand the lives of those he was documenting.

Barnes notes that Strand is a kind of textbook you can go back to if you are a photographer to see how he dedicated his life to it.

John and Jean MacLellan Image copyright Phil Coomes / BBC

John and Jean MacLellan were photographed by Strand with their sister Milly on South Uist in 1954.

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Milly, John and Jean Paul MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption Milly, John and Jean Paul MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
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Couple Rucar, Romania, 1967 Image copyright Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation
Image caption Couple Rucar, Romania, 1967

Barnes notes that Strand's work from the 1950s onwards is best understood by examining his books and the way he sequenced pictures from his many journeys, including Romania, Ghana and Mexico.

Books on show Image copyright Phil Coomes / BBC
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Paul Strand's camera Image copyright Phil Coomes / BBC

A number of Strand's cameras are on show, including the Graflex camera on the left purchased by Strand in 1931 and the Akeley motion picture camera he used to make a number of films.

Woman looking at pictures Image copyright Phil Coomes / BBC

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century is on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 19 March until July 2016.

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