I am grateful to an artist and photographic teacher, who also happens to be my cousin, for introducing me to the early 20th century American photographer Paul Strand, after I had posted the image of the French Finance Ministry on 4 December. He was struck by the way the structure of the building and its dominance of the small human figure evokes an iconic work of Strand. This is the image to which he referred (courtesy Wikipedia)
When I delved into Strand’s artistic journey, I very much empathised with some of his ideas, tastes and love of design and the abstract. However, given my aversion to photographing people, I differ from him greatly, given his mastery of the portrait.
I also watched some of his early film clips, which used a somewhat eerie perspective from high above the street, with a plunging view of pedestrians as “ants” scuttling about their business. So, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…”
...Or Is It?
The fact is, that both December’s and today’s images were taken prior to ever knowing about Strand, albeit only a month or two beforehand. My view is that as “aesthetics” is the study of beauty and truth is the corollary of beauty, all genuine artistic creativity is somehow convergent towards true beauty. “Great minds think alike”, you might say. Let’s forget the second part of that saying, since it doesn’t make my case.
I obviously share visual tastes with Strand, but I come to them for different reasons. He, for example, was much influenced by the inter-war explosion of abstract art, which he first discovered in the gallery of his own icon and teacher Stieglitz, but my own art tastes are far more classical. He was privileged to have early photographic education at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York (which I lived next door to for 4 years) and to be taken under the wing of luminaries like Stieglitz, while I am self-taught.
Whatever the reason, I love his urban images and dare to hope that he might have liked some of mine.
This was a hand-held, “snatched”, “street photography” image taken in the Paris Metro. Even boosting ISO to 6400 and limiting depth of field to f9 only produced a speed of 1/50s. I shot several images in order to catch the moving pedestrians in mid-walk and/or obtain a pleasing distribution of figures in the scene. Then I packed up and left before the heavy hand of “Security” fell upon me.
Having denied Strand’s influence on my choice of image, I did develop this image on-screen with Strand very much in mind. I hope that I succeeded.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 24-70mm f2.8G Zoom
Focal Length: 56 mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/50s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 6400
If you would like to find out more about Strand, you might like to start with the video to which I was referred:
Copyright Paul Grayson 2016