Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F

The White Fence, Port Kent, New York

Photograph
1916 (photographed), 1976-1977 (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In this photograph, taken in 1916, Paul Strand broke new ground in both subject matter and presentation. By photographing an ordinary picket fence, he invested an object which would not at that time have been considered an artistic subject with aesthetic appeal. He represents the fence in sharp focus, its impact heightened by the out-of-focus buildings in the background. The power of the image, with its strong contrast between black and white, suggests that Strand was declaring a new visual language for photography.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gelatin-silver print
Brief Description
Photograph by Paul Strand, ‘The White Fence, Port Kent, New York’, from the portfolio ‘Paul Strand: Portfolio Three’, gelatin silver print, 1916, printed in Paul Strands darkroom at Orgeval, France 1976-1977, published under auspices of the Paul Strand Foundation by Michael E. Hoffmann, ed. artist proof copy iii/100+10 AP.
Physical Description
Black and white photograph of a white picket fence, silhouetted in white against shadows falling on a wooden house behind.
Dimensions
  • Height: 25.2cm
  • Width: 32.8cm
Style
Production typeArtist's proof
Copy Number
iii/100+10 AP
Credit line
Copyright Paul Strand Archive
Object history
Paul Strand studied photography at the Ethical Culture High School in New York and had joined the classes of Lewis Hine. It was his interest in Pictorialist photography, however, that inspired him to become a professional photographer in 1912. In 1913-14 Strand became interested in modern art, such as the work of Picasso, Brancusi and Braque which he saw at the '291' gallery and the Armory Show in 1913. He began to explore their work and to consider how photography could respond to modern art. His work of 1915-17 was highly experimental and marked a radical shift in the vision of photography. The photographs he produced at this time are credited as being the first abstract still lifes and brutally candid shots intended as art rather than reportage photography. He used his great technical skill to create striking images which were always sensitive to the quality and substance of the subject matter. Stieglitz was greatly impressed by his work and gave him a show at the '291' and reproduced his work in two editions of Camera Work in 1916 and 1917. Strand continued to reassess photographic subject matter and presentation throughout the late 1910s and the 1920s producing, for example, close-ups of machinery and natural forms, and 'candid' portraits. In the 1930s most of his creative energy was devoted to cinematography, working in Mexico and the USA. He returned to still photography in 1943 and travelled to many locations including Europe (he came to live in France), Africa and the Middle East producing enduring images of the people, their land and its details. He died in his home in Orgeval in France in 1976.
Subjects depicted
Summary
In this photograph, taken in 1916, Paul Strand broke new ground in both subject matter and presentation. By photographing an ordinary picket fence, he invested an object which would not at that time have been considered an artistic subject with aesthetic appeal. He represents the fence in sharp focus, its impact heightened by the out-of-focus buildings in the background. The power of the image, with its strong contrast between black and white, suggests that Strand was declaring a new visual language for photography.
Collection
Accession Number
PH.374-1982

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record createdFebruary 20, 2004
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