Famous Photographers Of Urban Scenes
Paul Strand

"The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep."
Paul Strand

Paul Strand was born in New York, USA in 1890 and received his first camera at 12 years of age. He studied at the Ethical Cultural School under the documentary photographer Lewis Hine.

Paul Strand - Wall Street

At the end of his studies, Hine introduced him to Alfred Stieglitz the founder of "Photo Secession" and the publisher of Camera Work magazine. Stieglitz later devoted an entire magazine to Paul Strands work and honoured him saying " someone who has actually done something from within".

Strands work prior to 1917 included candid street photography of beggars and cab drivers that seemed to be fore runners of the realistic images later to be championed by Henri Cartier Bresson.

After 1917 Strands work changed and his photography became more abstract. Highlighting shadows, unusual angles and showing how people relate and interact with the geometry of modern architecture.

His range of subjects throughout his career was diverse in nature and ranged from portraits, documentary, landscape and architecture, including images of machines and industrial sites.

Paul Strands Technique

Strand's Photography seems to deliberately conceal co ordinates, in other words his images can sometimes be difficult for the viewer to discern exactly what it is, as it is taken from an unusual and unexpected angle.

He would deliberately throw the ground into dark shadow or screen it out altogether. This would often produce images that had visual gaps that had to filled in by the viewer.

This was a deliberate act on Strands part to force the onlooker into taking their time to contemplate what they were seeing. This was at the root of Strands philosophy of photography.

Paul Strand's Own Words About Photography

Taken from "Camera Work" (1917)

"With your soft focus lens you destroy the solidity of your forms… and the line diffused is no longer a line".

"'Honest' models of photography could be found: in scientific and other record making, there has been at least, perhaps of necessity, a modicum of that understanding and control or purely photographic qualities [that I value]…"

"These other phases were nearer to a truth than all the so called pictorialism...

... a simple record in the National Geographic Magazine, a Druot reproduction of a painting or an aerial photographic record is an unmixed relief. They are honest, direct, and sometimes informed with the beauty, however unintentional."

This five minute video talks about Strands transition into film making. It is well worth watching. I found it fascinating to hear his and others views of photography and film making at this time.

Paul Strand

A five minute video about Strands transition into film making.