PAUL STRAND (1890–1976)
Lathe, New York, 1923
gelatin silver print, flush-mounted on board, printed early 1940s
signed, titled, dated in ink with 'L', Light Gallery stamp and numbered '76.2' in pencil (flush mount, verso)
image/sheet/flush mount: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.1 x 19 cm.)
This is one of only three known prints made from the negative, and the earliest.
The Estate of Thomas T. Solley;
Photographs from the Estate of Thomas T. Solley, Christie's, New York, February 14, 2007, lot 42;
acquired from the above by the present owner.
Paul Strand, Paul Strand: Sixty Years of Photographs, Aperture, Millerton, 1976, pp. 66-67.
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Lot Essay

‘During the early 1920s Strand made several still photographs of machines and buildings, the very things that were responsible for much of the crassness and brutality in America. These images, however, bear no moral judgement. Like the X-rays he made while in the army, they reveal an interest in structure and also a desire to know the core of a substance. Presented with an intense, precise, scientific detail and objectivity, they speak of a photographer who was conducting a series of experiments, much as a scientist would, to break through superficial appearances and reveal facts about the essential character of these objects.' (Sarah Greenough, Paul Strand: An American Vision, National Gallery of Art, 1990, p. 40).

In 1922, Strand purchased an Akeley motion picture camera and began working as a freelancer for Akeley, shooting news footage, sporting events and special production shots for MGM and other companies. The far more significant development that this purchase led to, however, was Strand’s inspiration to make extraordinary images of machines. He wrote to fellow-photographer Van Deren Coke, ‘The Akeley was assuredly the chief stimulus to my active interest in the machine… I photographed lathes, milling machines, drillers, etc., etc., made in the shops of the Akeley Camera Company’ (as quoted in Paul Strand; Sixty Years of Photographs, Aperture, 1976, p. 149).

In Broom (Volume 3, Number, 4, November 1922), Strand wrote the following, revealing his astute observations about machines in American life at this time, and his views on the artist’s role of interpreting the relationship between human and machine:

We are not.. particularly sympathetic to the somewhat hysterical attitude of the Futurists toward the machine. We in America are not fighting, as it may be somewhat natural to do in Italy, away from the tentacles of a medieval tradition towards a neurasthenic embrace of the new God. We have it with us and upon us with a vengeance, and we will have to do something about it eventually… the new God must be humanized unless it in turn dehumanizes us. And so it is again the vision of the artist, of the intuitive seeker after knowledge, which… has seized upon a mechanism and materials of a machine and is pointing the way.

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