Fine Art Photography Series
Paul Strand

Biography of American Modernist Photographer.

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Paul Strand (1890-1976)


Paul Strand's Photography
Selected Exhibitions
Other Famous Camera Artists

See also: the History of Photography (c.1800-1900), for a short account of how early camera technology evolved.

For a brief explanation of technical
and historical terms, please see:
Art Photography Glossary.

Paul Strand's Photography

North America's most significant propagandist of "straight photography", the lens-based artist Paul Strand was one of the greatest photographers of the early 20th century. Together with other modern artists like Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Edward Weston (1886-1958), Strand helped to establish fine art photography as an independent arts discipline in America. His wide-ranging camera art, covering six decades, included Cubist-style images, photojournalism, portraits, nature studies, throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. His most famous picture is probably the harsh, abstract-style (Wall Street, 1915). Although not officially a member of the Communist Party, Strand used his camera to promote awareness of social issues and was a founder-member of the socially conscious Photo League association. Left America during the McCarthy years, and spent the last 27 years of his life in France. While in Europe he was kept under observation by the security services: a poor reward for his services to American art.


Strand's parents Matilda and Jacob Stransky were Bohemian immigrants. His own name is changed to Strand at birth. Until 1909, he attends Ethical Culture School. Among his teachers are Charles Caffin, and Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940). With the latter he regularly visits Stieglitz's Little Galleries and becomes acquainted with the works of the Photo Secessionists. Until 1911, he works in the family business. At the same time explores photography.

1909-1922, membership of the Camera Club. Takes first photos in the spirit of Pictorialism. 1911, travels to Europe. 1915, visits Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) with new photographs; meets Edward Steichen (1879-1973). 1916, first exhibition in Stieglitz's gallery. 1917, entire final issue of Camera Work (number 49/50) dedicated to Strand's camera art (influenced Edward Hopper). 1917-1918, military service. 1920, works with Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) on the experimental film Manhalla. 1922-1932, works primarily as a freelance cameraman (for news and sports coverage). 1932-1934, involved in photography and film production in Mexico. 1935, in Moscow. Meets the film director Sergei Eisenstein. 1937-1943, establishes his own production company, Frontier Films, specializing in Educational and documentary films. 1943, returns to still photography. 1945, he is given a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Time in New England is his last photographic project completed on American soil. 1950, settles in France with third wife, the photographer Hazel Kingsbury Strand. 1952-1954, explores Italy with his camera. In 1954, the Hebrides. 1959, Egypt. 1963-1964, Ghana. 1956-1960, focuses on portrait art (Pablo Picasso, Andre Malraux). During his last years focuses on nature studies on the grounds of his house in Orgeval. 1967, receives David Octavius Hill Medal of the GDL (Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner: German Photographic Academy).

"Like the artists associated with Cubism, Strand, too, sought an Archimedean point from whose perspective he could depict the world. He is justifiably considered to be the founder of modern documentary photography." (Klaus Honnef).

For a brief discussion of the aesthetics and evolution of lens-based art, see: Is Photography Art?

Selected Exhibitions

Unless stated all shows are solo events.

1916 New York (Gallery 291)
1929 New York (Intimate Gallery)
1932 New York (An American Place)
1945 New York (Museum of Modern Art)
1971 Philadelphia (Museum of Art)
1973 New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art - 1998)
1976 London (National Portrait Gallery)
1977 Paris (Centre Pompidou)
1990 Washington DC (National Gallery of Art)
1992 Bonn (Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der BRD) group show
1994 Essen (Museum Folkwang)
2003 New York (Howard Greenberg Gallery)
2004 St. Petersburg (Florida) (Museum of Fine Arts)
2005 Los Angeles (J. Paul Getty Museum)
2006 Cincinnati (Ohio) (Cincinnati Art Museum)
2007 New York (Pace/MacGill Gallery)

Photographs by Paul Strand are regularly exhibited in some of the best galleries of contemporary art across America.



Profiles of Other Famous Camera Artists

In addition to those photographers mentioned above, here is a short list of the best known camera artists of the 19th/20th century.

19th-Century Photographers (1800-1900).
Eugene Atget (1857-1927)
Man Ray (1890-1976)
Ansel Adams (1902-84)
Walker Evans (1903-75)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Robert Capa (1913-54)
Irving Penn (1917-2009)
Richard Avedon (1923-2004)
Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007) and (b.1934)
Jeff Wall (b.1946)

• For more about "straight photographers", see: Homepage.
• For other types of lens-based art, see: Animation and Video Art.

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