Paul Strand’s (1890-1976) career was enduring and fascinating; his camera produced striking images. Strand’s work stood with other modernist photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston; they assisted in the formation of photography as an art craft in the 20th century.
His style changed throughout the 1910s and 1920s: He focused on his pictorialist studies initially, then he produced provocative machine photographs, in relation to the contemporary work of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston; they set lofty standards for early American modernism. In the 1930s, Strand became vigorously engaged with documentary film, and the 1940s found him publishing high quality photographic books. After 1950, when he relocated to France, landscape, architecture, portraiture continued to invigorate Strand to capture the essence of his subjects through the medium of photographic print. The praise for his sophisticated work suggests that he fully realized his vision.
A majority of the people Strand photographed were time-honored New York types of the time: red-nosed Irish washerwomen, unshaven brutes, Jewish patriarchs, aging Europeans, blind peddlers, and sandwich men. Strand collected distressing evidence of poverty that afflicted the metropolis. Strand’s photographs captured the unpleasant reality of the time, and starkly contrasted the popular studio portrait that promoted glamour and power. Sanford Schwartz once described his work, “cityscapes that have faces for subjects.”