Paul Strand. Gateway Hidalgo, 1967. Photogravure from the Mexico Portfolio from an edition of 1000.
Paul Strand (1890–1976) is considered one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. His breakthrough work in the 1910s heralded photography’s importance as a modern art form. Early in his career he broke from the soft, impressionistic Pictorialist style to produce among the first abstract images made with a camera. His questioning attitude led him to radically change his work multiple times in his career, always with the highest ambitions for the quality of his photographic prints. In 1932, Carlos Chavez, the director of the fine arts department at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico, invited Strand to Mexico. At this time, the Mexican government was concerned with demonstrating a national culture that was reflective of a burgeoning, modern, twentieth-century Mexico. In light of this, Chavez invited Strand to document the new social and physical environment. Over the next two years, Strand traveled around Mexico photographing churches, religious imagery, local communities, and the land. Completely enraptured by Mexican culture, Strand ended his trip with over 175 negatives and 60 platinum prints. Strand selected 20 of these images for his 1940 Photographs of Mexico portfolio.