This article examines the photographs that Paul Strand made in the American Southwest between 1930-32, marking his crystallization as a photographer of interconnected people, objects, and places. Using Group Theatre director Harold Clurman’s appellation of ‘historical documents’ for these photographs, I argue that Strand’s photography witnessed the fluidity of the nascent discourse of documentary. I situate temporality as a principle interpretative theme for interpreting his photographs, invoking the geological notion of ‘deep time’ to characterize his sustained examination of these symbiotic forms amidst the region’s rich topography. I explore the significance of his favouring of the earlier photographers David Octavius Hill and Eugène Atget, and explore his retention of outmoded apparatus and slow printing methods. I consider these factors in concert with his coeval political radicalization, concluding that Strand’s Southwest photography sacrificed the topicality of ‘social documentary’ to concentrate on, in Clurman’s terms, ‘man’s age-long struggle’.