Toward A Deeper Understanding: Paul Strand At Work
February 22–March 31, 2007
32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY
Pace/MacGill Gallery is pleased to present a rare exhibition of over forty photographs by Paul Strand. This exhibition, drawn from more than four thousand photographs that comprised the Paul Strand Archive, illuminates an aspect of Strand’s work that has not been brought to the attention of the public for decades. Rather than showing archetypal Strand photographs, such as Wall Street (1915), White Fence (1916), or Blind (1916), the exhibition illustrates the approach Strand employed when photographing the people, architecture and landscapes of different geographical locations. Strand’s photographs of France, Italy and the United States, specifically New England, will be highlighted in Pace/MacGill’s show.
In the late 1940’s, Strand spoke of creating “a series of photographs that focused on the history, architecture, environs and people of a small town [which] would reveal ‘the common denominator of all humanity’. . . and would be a bridge toward a deeper understanding between countries.” During the next two decades, he undertook to fulfill this vision: he traveled widely, photographed intensively, developed and printed his own negatives, and published books that include many of the photographs in this show.
Strand identified and explored the myriad variations of some central themes: the primal connection between humans and the natural world, the beauty of simple objects and structures, and the inherent dignity of every individual regardless of wealth or social status. Throughout his travels, to New England, France, Italy, and eventually to Egypt and Ghana, Strand brought his keen intelligence, visual style and concern for ordinary people to his endeavors.
Strand’s prints have an unmistakable quality. His use of a view camera was continuous with his fidelity to the documentary truth of a photograph. The camera’s large-format negatives captured details such as subtle nuances of facial expression and the fine textures of materials. Strand was a meticulous printmaker, and said he wanted his images to be “in” the paper rather than floating on the surface. As a result, his photographs encourage the viewer to look closely and observe how details and formal relations emerge.
Paul Strand (1890-1976) was introduced to photography in 1904 by Lewis Hine, then Strand’s teacher at the Ethical Culture School in New York. Hine taught his students the fundamentals of the darkroom and photographic processes, and, perhaps most importantly, he introduced them to Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession Gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue. There, upon encountering the work of Robert Adamson, Georges Braque, Julia Margaret Cameron, Paul Cézanne, David Octavius Hill, Gertrude Käsebier, Pablo Picasso, Clarence White, and Stieglitz himself, seventeen-year-old Strand decided to dedicate his life to photography. It was also the beginning of what would become a deep friendship between Strand and Stieglitz, who championed Strand’s work by publishing it in Camera Work and ultimately exhibiting it at 291.
Numerous solo and group exhibitions have showcased Strand’s work including a 1945 solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and a 1971 retrospective exhibition that opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and later traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Saint Louis Art Museum. His work has been the subject of many monographs and can be found in the permanent collections of major museums internationally.