Artist: Paul Strand
Title of Work: Mr. Bennett, Vermont, 1944, from Portfolio Three. 1944.
Material: Gelatin silver print.
Dimensions: 20 x 16 inches.
Photo Line: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
Collection Credit:Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Gift of Michael E. Hoffman in honor of John H. Gutfreund (OC 1951), 1918.104.22.168.
“Who can say what amalgam of memory, dreams, study, pain and discipline brought Paul Strand to photograph Mr. Bennett and to record him so perfectly? The picture is almost as unaccountable as the fact of Mr. Bennett, we are left with our little cosmologies and the certainty that we will never fully know. But we continue to speculate, as with all great art, because the picture is clearer than life and this is consoling.”
-Robert Adams, Why People Photograph
Paul Strand, the modernist photographer credited with bringing his medium into 20th century critical acclaim, explored the ide of unintentional portraits. Mr. Bennett marks a departure from form. While initially Strand strove to capture his subjects in the poverty of their urban environments, his photograph of Mr. Bennett, taken towards the end of Strand’s American career, is set in rural Vermont. Seemingly unphased by the camera, Mr. Bennett looks directly through the lens, the wrinkles of his face mirroring the wooden logs. In this piece, Strand leaves the details unexplained: the string tied to Mr. Bennett’s collar, the sliver of the doorway, and Mr. Bennett’s complicated expression.
–Maddy Foley ‘13, Gund Gallery Associate