Paul Strand lived from 1890 until 1976. He was peer to giants like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. While Alfred Stieglitz should probably get the most credit for this, Strand helped establish photography as a legitimate art form in the 20th century.
Can you imagine a portfolio with pictures covering 60 years? Strand did that. He had a lucky start. Like many of the great photographers, he had a good mentor. Lewis Hine was a well-known documentary photographer and he was Strand’s teacher. His modernist approach to photography had a big impact on strand.
Strand’s street photography, his fascination with photographing machines and his documentary work in New York from 1910 to 1915 and again in the early 1930s -is some of the most inspirational to me. He had a way of seeing the machines and buildings in New York and capturing them that led to an instantly-recognizable style.
We’ll never know how much better he would have become at photographing New York because he got caught up in the McCarthyism that ruined the lives of so many artists of that era. Strand was very politically active and like Lange mentioned in my previous post, tried to use photography for social change. His political activities and the persecution that followed, led him to abandon America and move to France in the late 40s.
What I admire most about Paul Strand was his absolute, unshakable belief that photography was an art form and should be treated as such. Now what I mean by that is that he thought the art world should show photography more respect – but he also thought that he – as a photographer – should engage in that same process.
If you get a chance to study Paul Strand by all means take it. Look at his use of lines and shading in particular. These still haunt me and move me as a photographer.