Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA


Paul Strand and The Photo League

“The Photo League was a remarkable and unique organization, at that time or at any other time. It had no equivalent. They (the members of the Photo League) felt as I have, that the function of art was to speak to people about the world in which they exist.” — Paul StrandREAD ENTIRE ARTICLE

Paul Strand - Tailor's Apprentice

Paul Strand – Tailor’s Apprentice

Paul Strand was a vital member of The Photo League, not only because he served on its advisory board, but because his work resonated so clearly with the group’s mission. Strand is known for pictures examining labor and the working class in North American, Europe and Africa, but also for his groundbreaking early work as a modernist. As a leader in the League and a teacher there, he was able to help other photographers hone their own visions, so they could also reveal the world to their audiences.
The Photo League was a cooperative of photographers and filmmakers in New York who banded together around a range of common social and creative causes. The League was active from 1936 to 1951 and included among its members some of the most influential American photographers of the era.
Photo League artists with ties to Lumière, include Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Harold Feinstein, Dorothea Lange, Aaron Siskind, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Strand. The links above will take you to these artists’
specific pages on the Lumière site.
Berenice Abbott - Pier 21, NYC

Berenice Abbott – Pier 21, NYC

The League was founded to train photographers in the social documentary tradition. As such, it ran a school, published a newsletter, sponsored talks and exhibitions by leading European and American photographers, as well as providing a community for photographers to grow professionally and personally. The League also maintained Lewis Hine’s archive.
Many passionate discussions about what photography could or should be – reverberated through its halls. For example, an intense debate erupted when Aaron Siskind turned from his documentary exploration of Harlem to an examination of abstraction inspired by graffiti.
Strand, whose work can also be seen online in Lumière’s Circle of Light exhibition, was an especially influential member of the Photo League. His work defined what was best about both the documentary and modernist models of photography, according to League members. As such, he was immune from much of the criticism leveled at other members whose work was not as successful in uniting social content with impeccable form. Though published after the Photo League disbanded, Strand’s book, The Face of France, is an example of his fluidity.
“The Photo League was a remarkable and unique organization, at that time or at any other time. It had no equivalent. They (the members of the Photo League) felt as I have, that the function of art was to speak to people about the world in which they exist,” Strand said in an interview with Anne Tucker, former curator of the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Paul Strand - Woman & Boy (Mexican Portfolio)

Paul Strand – Woman & Boy (Mexican Portfolio)

The Photo League was one of the few places Strand exhibited The Mexican Portfolio, where it was shown in 1941. Strand did not often exhibit his work during his life, so his exhibition at The Photo League speaks to the intensity of his feelings about the organization. Strand’s prints were laborious to make, as he was a perfectionist, so he did not often make multiple copies of individual images. Later he turned to bookmaking and photogravure as means of expressing his vision.
The Photo League was rooted in leftist and labor politics of the 1930s, and though it had diversified its political thought somewhat since its inception, the League was not able to withstand attacks mounted by the supporters of McCarthyism.
Though the League disbanded in 1951, Paul Strand felt the League had succeeded because it trained a generation of photographers and encouraged them to reach the public through their efforts.
Even as the League was winding down, Strand maintained his commitment to the organization. In fact, Strand was the only photographer to teach a documentary class after 1947. In Tucker’s words, the class was Strand’s last gift to the League.
Additional information about Strand’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look


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