Pre-requisite of a Living Expression

Paul Strand Porch Shadows 1916

“The photographer’s problem is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the pre-requisite of a living expression. The fullest realization of this is accomplished without tricks of process or manipulation, through the use of straight photographic methods.” – Paul Strand

Paul Strand Church Ranchos de Taos New Mexico 1931

“Few photographers have been so influential in the shaping of a country’s cultural identity than Strand. His “Wall Street, New York” (1915) prefigures years of American painting, from Edward Hopper to Rothko’s color field canvases. In a similar way, the typical local architecture in “White Fence, Port Kent, New York” (1916) feels authentically American. With little more than an urban architectural detail, Strand composed an image that influenced generations to come, including David Lynch in his first scene of Blue Velvet.” [Francesco Dama on Paul Strand]

Paul Strand Porch Railings Twin Lakes, Connecticut 1916

“At the behest of [Lewis] Hine he visited, in 1907, the nascent 291 Gallery, where avant-garde work by Matisse and Picasso rubbed shoulders with experimental photography. The gallery’s charismatic founder, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz (who, years later, would marry O’Keeffe), took an interest in the quiet young man and urged him to keep taking pictures. Strand’s photo of a snow-covered Central Park, caught in 1913–14, was an austere exercise in texture and silhouette, a solitary tobogganist disappearing into the distance. A justly famous photograph of Wall Street, from 1915, captured not the raw hustle of the city but the stark embrasures of the Morgan Bank, whose sinister geometry dwarfs the few scattered commuters beneath. Stieglitz’s 1917 description of Strand’s photography—“brutally direct. Devoid of all flim-flam; devoid of trickery and of any ‘ism’ ”—not only articulated what was brilliant about the young man’s work but helped to make his name. [Andrew Dickson on Paul Strand]

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