Fine Art, Documentary, Photojournalism
Biography: Paul Strand, the son of immigrants from Bohemia
(now western Czechoslovakia), was born in New York City on 16th
Strand was given his first camera by his father when he was twelve
years old. Two years later he joined the Ethical Culture School
where he was taught by Lewis Hine, who at that time was involved
in a project photographing immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.
Strand joined Hine's extra-curricular course in photography. Hine
also took Strand to the Photo-Secession Gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue
and introduced him to the work of Alfred Stieglitz, David Octavius
Hill, Julia Margaret Cameron, Gertrude Kasebier and Clarence White.
A member of the the Camera Club , Strand worked for an insurance
company after graduation in 1911. However, two years later he
became a self-employed commercial photographer in 1911. He worked
closely with Alfred Stieglitz, who was a strong advocate of what
he called Straight Photography. In 1916 Strand's photographs appeared
in Camera Work and Stieglitz wrote that "Strand is without
doubt the most important photographer developed in this country
since Alvin Langdon Coburn."
During the First World War Strand was a member of the Army Medical
Corps. After the war, Strand collaborated with Charles Scheeler
on the documentary film, Mannahatta (1925). Strand continued with
his work as a motion picture cameraman when he worked on the film
The Wave (1933).
With the onset of the Depression Strand became active in politics.
A committed socialist, he worked with he Group Theatre that had
been formed in New York by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and
Lee Strasberg in 1931. The Group was a pioneering attempt to create
a theatre collective, a company of players trained in a unified
style and dedicated to presenting contemporary plays. Members
of the group tended to hold left-wing political views and wanted
to produce plays that dealt with important social issues.
In 1935 Strand visited the Soviet Union with Harold Clurman and
Cheryl Crawford where he met the radical film director, Sergi
Eisenstein. When Strand returned to the United States he began
to produce socially significant documentary films. This included
The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936), his film on trade unions
in the Deep South, People of the Cumberlands (1937) and Native
In 1936 Strand joined with Berenice Abbot to establish the Photo
League in New York. in 1936. Its initial purpose was to provide
the radical press with photographs of trade union activities and
political protests. Later the group decided to organize local
projects where members concentrated on photographing working class
The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a full-scale retrospective
of Strand's work in 1945. The Photo League, like many radical
organizations, was investigated by the House of Un-American Activities
Committee during the late 1940s. This led to members being blacklisted
and Strand decided to leave the United States and live in France.
Strand published a series of books including Time in New England
(1950), France in Profile (1952), Un Paese (1954), Mexican Portfolio
(1967), Outer Hebrides (1968) and Ghana: An African Portrait (1976).
Paul Strand died on 31st March, 1976.
More on Paul Strand:
Century Strand by Peter Schjeldahl
'Excellent site, featuring an article on Strand's work, as well
as several examples of his photography.
Year in the Life by Luc Sante
Article regarding Strand's breakthrough moment in his career.