Past exhibition

Paul Strand – Photography and Film for the 20th Century

07.03.–17.05.2015

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Fotomuseum Winterthur presented the first major retrospective in Europe of the work of Paul Strand (1890–1976), one of the great photographers of the twentieth century. The exhibition revealed the multiplicity of his practice, from his early efforts to secure photography’s position as a modernist art form, to his embrace of film-making, to his important post-war photo books. Strand is revealed as a complex and contradictory figure: a stubborn aesthete, a communist sympathiser and a pastoralist motivated by a strong sense of social purpose.

The exhibition began with Strand’s rapid mastery of the prevailing avant-garde styles of the 1910s and his growing interest in urban subject matter, including a series of innovative close-up portraits of people taken on the streets of New York. Strand’s sense of modernity was informed by extensive travel and between 1932 and 1934 he photographed in Mexico, deepening his engagement with the politics of the left. Deeply affected by the world economic crisis of the 1930s, Strand took an increasing interest in film-making as a means of encouraging social change. Films such as Redes (1936) and Native Land (1942) reveal the extent of his political commitments. After 1945, Strand devoted his energies primarily to the production of photo books, offering him the opportunity to create complex portraits of people and place. The exhibition concentrated on three of his most important productions, including his portrait of the Italian village of Luzzara, published as Un Paese in 1955. Concentrating on the lives of ordinary people, Strand’s photography provides a moving testimony to the democratic qualities of everyday life.

The exhibition was organised by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Fundación MAPFRE. It is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue co-published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press in collaboration with the Fundación MAPFRE.

The exhibition in Winterthur was made possible by the Vontobel-Stiftung. Further support from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Ars Rhenia – Stiftung zur überregionalen Förderung von Kunst und Kultur and the Walter Haefner Stiftung.

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