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‘Documenting an “Age-Long Struggle”- Paul Strand’s Time in the American Southwest’

Haran, Barnaby



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 Using Group Theatre director Harold Clurman’s appellation of ‘historical documents’ for these photographs, I argue that Strand’s photography witnessed the fluidity of the nascent discourse of documentary.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’.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 22, 2020
Journal Art history
Print ISSN 0141-6790
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Haran, B. (2020). ‘Documenting an “Age-Long Struggle”- Paul Strand’s Time in the American Southwest’. Art History,
Keywords Documentary; time; temporality; South-West; photography; printing; struggle
Publisher URL