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 Using Group Theatre director Harold Clurman’s appellation of ‘historical documents’ for these photographs, I argue that Strand’s photography witnessed the fluidity of the nascent discourse of documentary.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


Haran, B. (2020). Documenting an ‘Age-Long Struggle’: Paul Strand's Time in the American Southwest. Art History, 43(1), 120-153.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 31, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 22, 2020
Publication Date Feb 1, 2020
Deposit Date Feb 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 19, 2020
Journal Art History
Print ISSN 0141-6790
Electronic ISSN 1467-8365
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 1
Pages 120-153
Keywords Documentary; time; temporality; South-West; photography; printing; struggle
Public URL
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