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  • Writer's pictureJohn A Lewis


In April 2016 I visited the Paul Strand Exhibition at the V&A Museum. I know this is some time ago but Strand is so iconic a photographer I wanted to include this experience in by BLOG and it follows on from my comments on the blog post About Looking - John Berger. It was a large exhibition with many of his original prints on display. It really is worthwhile seeing the actual prints, rather than copies in a book. You get a much better sense of the impact and quality of the print.

My focus for the viewing was to look at the portraits but there was also a range of pictures of plants and sculptures.

I found the images taken on Uist in the Outer Hebrides very appealing and spoke of a people fully at ease with Strand taking pictures of them. Strand published a book ' ‘Tìr a’ Mhurain’ (1962) in which the people are shown as facing adversity and the images have a natural honest look about them. The one shown below of the MacLellen children 1954 is a good example. Another example is the image of Mrs Archie MacDonald (LEFT) which was displayed with the sound of traditional songs from the islands!

Strand formed close relationships with the people he was with and this come across in the picture of the Family Lazzara 1953. The relaxed stance of the members of the family with the Mother standing proud in the doorway all indicate this.

One of Strand's iconic images is of Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France 1951 shown left.

The boy is against a textured background as were many of the portraits, with him looking straight on to the camera. The expression is one of concentration, perhaps as a results of the slow shutter speed used by Strand.

His visit to Luzzara in Italy also produced some powerful portraits. The Taylors Apprentice 1953 is a simple pose, facing the camera against a textured wall, but the impact is never-the-less very strong. We are left wondering about her personality, and why was she chosen? Strand's straight forward approach brings out the reality of the situation, and you feel that the image represents an accurate portrait of the girl.


  • Facing the camera

  • A textured background

  • Chin lowered

  • lighting plane

I came away from the exhibition fully intending to examine Strand honest approach in the portrayal of subjects in my future portrait work.

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