Paul Strand: The Mexican Portfolio. Text by Leo Hurwitz. Foreword by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Da Capo Press, New York, 1967. Folio (12 x 16 in./46 cm.). 7 pp text + 20 gravure reproductions from photographs by Strand, hand printed from the original plates by Albert Delong under Strand's supervision. Plates in stiff paper folio. Linen clamshell case. Printed cardboard slipcase.
"...what is it about Paul Strand's photographs that can make one feel uncomfortable, especially given that Strand in his youth was so smitten with the blurry solace served up by his romantic Pictorialist predecessors?
Understanding that his first photography teacher, at the Ethical Culture School in New York, was Lewis Hine -- whose blunt images of child laborers and impoverished immigrants are gut-wrenchingly clear and incisive -- offers a clue to Strand's transformation into a purveyor of the socially and visually unnerving...
"Strand once said of his photographic series that documented the worst of New York's slums (the Five Points area of the Lower East Side) that what he wanted to make were "portraits of people such as you see in New York parks and places, sitting around, without their being conscious of being photographed... I felt that one could get a quality of being through the fact that the person did not know he was being photographed... [and I wanted to capture] these people within an environment which they themselves had chosen to be in, or were in anyway."
He accomplished this with a trick camera, which caught his often gnarled or destitute subjects unawares, by means of a false second lens that allowed him to loop the functioning lens underneath his arm on bellows. Shooting subjects without their explicit consent is a constant and fraught topic of debate in the realm of photography, yet Strand's images don't seem exploitative, if anything they seem somewhat boringly or stereotypically ennobling -- with the native people's stony-faced vacant stares penetrating some unseen sun-bleached horizon."---Emma Allen, "Paul Strand's Elegant and Unsettling Vision of Mexico Comes to the Bronx," Blouin Artinfo, September 14, 2010
Taken from images made in 1932-1933, Strand’s Mexican Portfolio is one of his elegant "series of studies of people and places that exemplifies his self-expressed desire "to photograph people who have strength and dignity in their faces". For Alfred Stieglitz, it was Strand, alone, who practiced "a truly photographic version of the kind of forceful representation he found in painters like Picasso and Matisse" (Roth). The 20 tonally entrancing photogravures in this signed limited edition brilliantly re-present Strand’s earlier Photographs of Mexico, published in 1940 in an edition of just 250. . Using the same steel-faced plates as the edition, this Mexican Portfolio, issued by Da Capo in 1967, was the one preferred by Strand. "He has made these plates sing," Strand said of master printer Albert DeLong’s hand-pulled gravures. Unlike the earlier edition’s application of a heavy varnish that is prone to yellowing and/or darkening, the varnish chosen for these plates has stood the test of time.
Plates Fine+ with some edge rippling; some creasing and edge tears to tissue guards; plate 16 (Girl With Child, Hidalgo), show signs of handling, with some faint smudging and dimpling in margins; clam shell case Fine with just a bit of age darkening to spine; text leaves Fine; slipcase Near Fine- with a area of discoloration along spine area; small area of spotting upper corner; joints just slightly abraded, with splits at top opening (less than 1"/2.5 cm), bottom opening and rear (about 2"/5 cm).