The Victoria and Albert Museum’s latest photography exhibition is an awe inspiring, deceptive in size but beautifully exhibited display of Paul Strand’s work.
In this first exhibition for 40 years in the UK, Paul Strand’s work is wonderfully celebrated at the Victoria and Albert Museum, allowing his work to be completely appreciated in its many forms.
Featuring over 200 objects such as films, photographs, notebooks and even Strands cameras, the display is wide and varied with visitors certain to learn a lot about the variety of photographs that can be taken and used to effect.
Paul Strand was a photographer whose portfolio of work is incredible – particularly if you consider that what is on display here is in fact perhaps a ‘small’ selection of what he created during his sixty year career.
Divided into themes such as his early work, nature and his extensive travels, anyone visiting this extraordinary display can see his devotion and fascination with the way in which photographs were created. In early works such as White Fence, Port Kent, New York (1916), you can see the way in which he deliberately chooses to focus on the fence and puts everything else out of focus and changing the outlook of the photograph. This is something that is consistently shown throughout the exhibition.
But the strongest works are the ones that celebrate nature and his travels, allowing the viewer to gain a new perspective of the joy of nature through works such as Cobweb in rain, Georgetown, Maine (1927) and further on into the exhibition many of his photographs taken in Mexico.
All of his work comes across as very natural and is perfectly framed to capture a new perspective that perhaps an ordinary eye would not have noticed, proving him to have a very modern approach to photography by pioneering techniques that are still used to this day.
It is a huge exhibition – bigger than you could even imagine when first stepping into the space and as a result can feel clinical and less intimate than a visitor might want, tending to feel overwhelming – particularly towards the end. Although it is understandable that the V&A wanted to include as much of his work from a 60 year career as possible, but had it been more selective it could have made more of an impact.
But despite this, the Victoria and Albert Museum has managed to create an in depth and detailed display of work that will fascinate and delight fans of Strand’s work and makes a strong case that his work needs and deserves to be seen more often.
Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the 19th March, running until the 3rd July.