Strand at the V&A

In the Guardian you can read I posed for Paul Strand, in which 73 year old Angela Secchi recalls the day when she was 9 and the photographer came into her native town of Luzzara  in Italy.

Her portrait was one of many that he made there for his book with writer Cesare Zavattini, Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village. It was Zavattini’s home town, but the two worked separately, and Strand’s guide to the town was one of the eight sons of one of the most famous family in photography,  The Lusetti Family, Luzzara, taken in 1953.

It has long been one of my favourite photographs, and Strand certainly one of my favourite photographers, though that doesn’t stop me being criticising some of his pictures. I’m not too enamoured of the portrait of Secchi, which, like quite a few of his others seems a little too contrived, wearing the oversize hat of her farmer father, put on her head by the photographer.

Of course Strand was a very fine portraitist, and doubtless there will be many of his better examples in the show, Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century which is at the V&A in London from 19 March to 3 July.

This is a rare example of a great photographic touring show – organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with Fundación MAPFRE and made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art – coming to the UK, and is apparently the first major retrospective of his work in the UK since his death in 1976. I do remember the previous retrospective – and unlike the current V&A show – I was invited to the opening in Carlton House Terrace shortly before he died.

Strand was of course a communist, and worked with a number of others who shared his views; as Fraser MacDonald writes in his detailed essay Paul Strand and the Atlanticist Cold War on Strand’s fine book on the Hebrides, Tir a’Mhurain (1962).  You can also read my own far less scholarly account of the New York Photo League originally published in 2001.

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