[NY]: Virginia Stevens, 1940. Strand, Paul. First edition of 250 copies. Folio, 4 pp., with 20 hand-pulled photogravure plates of varying size, from 5 x 6 1/4 to 8 x 10 1/2 inches, or the reverse, on loose sheets, 12 1/2 x 16 inches. The surface of each image is varnished, as issued. Each plate is numbered sequentially on the back reverse in green ink by Paul Strand. A bifolium text with printed titles and colophon is SIGNED by the photographer and laid-in with the plates in a heavy paper folder, and inserted into a moderately soiled linen and card stock portfolio. The blank margins of several plates show occasional faint foxing, as does the text pages. A very good copy. Item #51210
In the autumn of 1932, Paul Strand had separated from both his mentor, Alfred Stieglitz and his wife Rebecca. With the growing need to concentrate exclusively on his still photography, he contacted Carlos Chávez, then chief of the Department of Fine Arts in the secretariat of Education in Mexico, to help arrange an official invitation to work in Mexico. Strand claimed that he abandoned his usual working methods at the border. "I began to find that the shibboleths of time were not true for me. It was always said that you had to really know a place before start working in it, otherwise you would do something very superficial. Another shibboleth was that you can't make a portrait of a person unless you know that person.... these shibboleths went out the window." The photographs in the portfolio came from several trips to various Mexican states during the period of 1933-1934. The photographs he produced for this portfolio acted as a transition from his previous formalism in landscape and portraiture to a new social realism imbued with a fine art approach and technique. Sequencing played a major roll in the portfolio; the first image is Landscape, Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932. It is a distant view of a white adobe structure seen through cactus and brush. The sequence moves from architectural studies of churches and vernacular buildings to the interior of the church and the religious statues, to the portraits of the unnamed people who inhabit these places. The Sequence moves back and forth, back and forth, so that the viewer begins to understand the lives of these people. The actual production of the portfolio was first suggested by Lee Strasberg of the Group Theatre and published under the imprint of Virginia Stevens, Strand's second wife and an actress with the Group Theatre. Strand said of the portfolio, "The thing that was original about this portfolio was that it was a conscious attempt to see if one could make reproductions which were so close to the originals - the originals being platinum prints - that they were good enough to be framed. That I think had not been done before. And I chose gravure as the one medium that I thought was possible to do that job." He added an element that further enhanced the tonal range of these prints by using a varnish on the finished print, an effect that gives a richness not seen in other photogravure prints. The images are 10 1/4 x 8 inches, and are extremely sharp and fine. Limited to 250 copies and SIGNED in ink by Strand beneath his statement in the text which follows a introduction by Leo Hurwitz. For further details regarding PHOTOGRAPHS OF MEXICO, please see the excellent article by Katherine C. Ware in PAUL STRAND: ESSAYS ON HIS LIFE AND WORK. Aperture, 1990.