Paul Strand Receives Largest Retrospective Ever at Fundación Mapfre
“I wanted to see if I could photograph people without their being aware of the camera,” the photographer Paul Strand told Milton Brown in a 1971 interview.
On June 3, Madrid’s Fundación Mapfre will open the biggest retrospective ever dedicated to the American photographer, considered one of the masters of the photographic medium in the 20th century.
The exhibition gathers over 200 works, some on loan from major museum and private collections, most notably the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which owns the most comprehensive body of work by Strand. In fact, the exhibition is curated by Peter Barberie, curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum.
In 2011, Fundación Mapfre acquired more than 50 photographs by Strand—most of them vintage prints—becoming the European institution with the largest collection of works by him.
“Paul Strand” spans the photographer’s six-decade career oeuvre—from the 1910s to the 1960s—and is divided into three broad sections that document his early efforts to turn photography into an independent medium of artistic expression, and end with his detailed portraits of people and places, which he often presented in the form of printed books.
Strand’s oeuvre always had a strong social motivation and political commitment, manifested in his creative compulsion to portray human conflict and the hidden aspects of everyday life. The photographer used an Ensign camera, putting a false lens on the side of the camera and shooting at a right angle so the subject never saw the real lens, which was tucked under Strand’s arm. “It was quite nerve-racking because there was always the possibility that you would be challenged either by the person being photographed or by some bystander who might realize you were up to something…” Strand told Brown.
Click above to see a slideshow with highlights from the exhibition, and click below to see Manhatta (1921), Strand’s short documentary work about life the industrial American city, which will also be screened as part of the exhibition.
“Paul Strand” is on view at Fundación Mapfre, Madrid, from From June 3 to August 23, 2015.
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