View Full Version : Classic photographers

25-Jan-2004, 08:15
Hi there! .Somebody knows something about the Paul Strand's technique?

25-Jan-2004, 09:27
What did you have in mind?

25-Jan-2004, 11:25
I will mean type of developer/s for film and paper, camera and lenses.

Carl Weese
25-Jan-2004, 13:16
He used an 8x10 Deardorff throughout his very long career. He also used a 5x7 Graflex camera, and did most of his portraits with this. Some of his famous early work (including "Blind") was done with an early medium format twin lens reflex--can't recall the brand name. From this he made enlarged negatives for printing in platinum. I don't know about film, but he began printing in platinum and was very unhappy when platinum papers were discontinued by the 1920's. I think his rather idocyncratic printing style was due in part to his constant striving to get silver papers to deliver results more like platinum. I'm pretty sure that near the end of his life he began to use a Hasselblad in place of the old Graflex. Portfolios of his pictures were printed by Richard Benson under his close supervision, and I'm quite sure these included both silver prints and hand-coated Pt/Pd prints. You can tell that he liked to give very full exposure: he probably didn't want to give up the rich long-scale negatives he learned to make for platinum.


Brian Ellis
25-Jan-2004, 13:52
In his early days he used an Adams Idento and an Ensign Reflex cameras (hope you weren't asking this question because you plan to try to buy the equipment he used : - )). This was during the period when he was an active participant in the New York Camera Club and used their darkroom facilities to make carbon, gum, bromoil, and platinum prints. Around 1919 he acquired his first large format camera but I don't know the brand. He used a 4x5 Graflex and an unknown brand 8x10 for the lengthy series of portraits of his wife Rebecca made in the 1920s (a period during which he made his living as a freelance cinematographer). The prints in this series were platinum and palladium contact prints.

In the early 1930s he worked in New Mexico and there he used DuPont's Defender Extra Fast Panchromatic Film. He used an 8x10 Korona for the photographs made during this period as well as the 4x5 Graflex. He also owned a 5x7 Graflex. He put a mask on the back of the 5x7 to convert it into a 5x6 camera. He is said to have liked the Graflex cameras for their relative portability and their limited capacity to render fine detail (presumably in comparison to the contact prints made from the 8x10 negatives). From the early 1930s until about 1960 he used only two cameras, the 8x10 Korona and the "5x6" Graflex. During these decades he made contact prints almost exclusively. He used only one lens, a 12" Dagor.

Some time around 1960 as he grew older and his eye sight began to fail he started using a square format roll film camera, probably a Rollei of some sort but I'm not sure. He cropped these negatives to recatangular proportions and enlarged them. He couldn't enlarge the 8x10 negatives made with the Korona because he didn't own an 8x10 enlarger.

His favorite, in fact his only, enlarging paper for many years was Kodak Illustrator's Special. When it was discontinued he experimented with a variety of different papers in an effort to find one that replicated Illustrator's Special as closely as possible. His contact prints were mostly platinum but he didn't coat the paper himself, someone else did the coating. His silver prints were usually toned with Nelson's Gold Toner or Kodak toner T-21. Illustrator's Special aparently was a warm toned paper with a greenish cast and the toning cooled it and could be used to impart slight colors ranging from purple to brown to red.

He varnished his platinum prints to make their surface more glossy (so much for archival concerns). His silver prints were made on a matte surface and they too were varnished to make them more shiny. He also printed on an obscure material called "Satista" made by the Platinotype company. I don't know anything about this material.

He had a very simple darkroom. He didn't use a timer and didn't try to exercise a lot of control over his working methods. The idea apparently was to do whatever he thought needed to be done to make the prints look like he wanted them to look. He did keep detailed notes about the procedures used for each print.

Some of the information here is taken from an essay by Richard Benson printed in the book "Paul Strand - His Life and Work." That essay is the best single source I know of for information about Strand's equipment and working methods.

I think Strand's equipment and materials are interesting for their extreme simplicity. He pretty much used only two cameras and one lens for much of his life, one brand of silver paper for as long as it was made. Kind of makes you wonder about the amount of time we spend here talking about equipment.

Carl Weese
25-Jan-2004, 14:55

I haven't seen that Benson essay: I'll have to look it up. The only real discrepency with other notes on Strand's technique that I've seen over the years is the Korona instead of Deardorff 8x10. Since Benson worked directly with Strand in Strand's own darkroom in France I'd bet that his information is accurate. He'd have seen the stuff with his own eyes.

Which brings up, is there a full scale biography of Paul Strand? I've never seen one. It seems like a glaring omission.


25-Jan-2004, 15:25
I am perplex by the vastness of your knowledge. Strand is to photography as Velazquez to painting: simplicity, elegance, austerity and human dignity. His voluntary equipment restriction is not strange, this class of creators usually prefers to work with few and controlled materials. Velazquez used in his paintings an average of only 6 colors, even in "Las Meninas", his masterwork. Thank you very much.

William Blunt
25-Jan-2004, 17:05
The book "Paul Strand, Essays On His Life and Work" has a photo of Strand attaching a lens shade on his 8x10 Deardorff as the cover photo. Fred Picker wrote in his newsletter of Strand using his new camera, an 8x10 Deardorff.

25-Jan-2004, 19:54
The camera he used near the end of his life was a Mamiya TLR (model C-3?), fitted with an eyelevel porroprism.

Mark Sampson
26-Jan-2004, 06:13
Strand and Velasquez? Fascinating idea. Now I'll have to look again at Velasquez' work- it's been a long time.

Brian Ellis
26-Jan-2004, 21:15
I of course have no personal knowledge of Paul Strand's equipment, my information was taken from various sources but mostly the essay by Richard Benson that I mentioned in my previous post. He says Strand used a Korona and since he worked so closely with Strand it doesn't seem likely that he would be confused but who knows, maybe he was. He doesn't mention a Deardorff in his essay but as someone pointed out the camera that's on the cover of the book Paul Strand: Essays on His Life and Work does look like a Deardorff. That photograph was made by Strand's wife in 1951, maybe by then he switched to Deardorff though Benson says he used the Korona into the late fifties or early sixties as I recall.

Nick Morris
27-Jan-2004, 13:26
Pictures of Strand at work, taken by his wife, in "World at my Doorstep" show him using a Deardorff. Strand, along with Edward Weston, is for me a major inspiration, particulary his later work in France, Italy, Ghana, Scotland, etc.