Front / Recto

  • Title Porch Railings, Twin Lakes, Connecticut
  • Negative Date 1916
  • Print Date 1916
  • Medium Silver platinum print
  • Dimensions Image 12 15/16 × 9 11/16" (32.8 × 24.6 cm)
    Sheet 13 1/16 × 9 7/8" (33.2 × 25.1 cm)
    Mount 13 3/4 × 10 9/16" (34.9 × 26.8 cm)
  • Place Taken Twin Lakes
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel
  • MoMA Accession Number 1865.2001
  • Copyright © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive
  • Description

    Paul Strand spent the summer of 1916 at his parents’ cottage at Twin Lakes in northwestern Connecticut, producing ambitious, radically abstract photographs that quickly became famous. There were others who distilled life into abstract forms through a camera’s lens, but with few exceptions these tended towards the decorative: Strand wanted to grapple with issues of form and content that were at the heart of artistic inquiry in other mediums.

    [1] He recalled, “I did, I think, understand through that work what the principle was behind Picasso and all the others in their organization of the picture space, of the unity of what that organization contained, and the problem of making a two-dimensional area have a three-dimensional character so that the eye of the person beholding the picture remained in that space and went into this picture.”[2] Strand was attuned to these issues largely through his association with Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and art impresario who was instrumental in bringing the ideas and achievements of the European avant-garde to an American audience in the decade before World War I. Stieglitz quickly recognized the importance of the young Strand’s achievement; he exhibited Strand’s images in the one-person exhibition Photographs of New York and Other Places at his New York gallery, 291, in March 1916, and published portfolios of Strand’s work in the final two issues of his luxurious journal Camera Work (October 1916 and June 1917).

    Between 1915 and 1917 Strand’s practice was to expose 2 ¼ by 3 ¼ inch (5.7 by 8.3 centimeter) negatives, enlarging them to 11 by 14 inch (27.9 by 35.6 centimeter) glass plates from which he could then make contact prints onto full sheets of commercially prepared, store-bought Platinum paper. With platinum becoming increasingly scarce during World War I, Strand turned to the less expensive, faster silver platinum paper known as Satista (“It Satisfies” was its marketing slogan) in order to continue working in this large format. An unstable combination of silver and iron constituents in the Satista paper made image permanence an issue, but the company’s literature spun the fading of the silver component as advantageous for those seeking “softened gradation.” This does not seem to have been Strand’s intention: his silver platinum prints are often marked by visible Retouching, which, when first applied, would have been nearly invisible, matching the deep, rich tones of the print.

    —Lee Ann Daffner, Sarah Hermanson Meister

    [1] Bonnie Yochelson has rightly pointed to Bernard Shea Horne, who studied at the Clarence H. White School of Photography with White and the painter/sculptor Max Weber, as one of his contemporaries grappling with the same issues.

    [2] Paul Strand, interview with William Innes Homer, June 25, 1974, typescript page 5; quoted in Maria Morris Hambourg, Paul Strand circa 1916 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998), p. 34.

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type Mount (original)
  • Marks and Inscriptions Signed in pencil on mount recto, bottom right: -Paul Strand-1916-.
  • Provenance The artist; to the artist's archive, Millerton, N.Y., 1976 [1]; to Weston Gallery, Carmel, Calif., 1982 [2]; to Michael Senft, New York [3]; to Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, 1984 [4]; purchased by Thomas Walther, December 1984 [5]; purchased by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] MacGill/Walther 2001(3), p. 22.
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Ibid.
    [4] Ibid.
    [5] Ibid.; and Pace/MacGill invoice no. 1301, December 10, 1984.


  • Retouch Detail
    Detail of aqueous retouching applied with a brush. Retouching now appears darker than the original image material. The area of detail is 42 x 65 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Surface Sheen Matte
  • Techniques Mount
    Retouching (additive)
    Contact print
  • PTM
    View of the recto of the artwork made using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) software, which exaggerates subtle surface details and renders the features of the artwork plainly visible. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Micro-raking
    Raking-light close-up image, as shot. Area of detail is 6.7 x 6.7 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
    Raking-light close-up image, processed. Processing included removal of color, equalization of the histogram, and sharpening, all designed to enhance visual comparison. Department of Conservation, MoMA

Paper Material

  • Format Unknown
  • UV Fluorescence Recto negative
    Verso no data
  • Fiber Analysis No fiber data available
  • Material Techniques Silver-platinum print
  • XRF

    This work was determined to be a silver platinum print via X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.

    The following elements have been positively identified in the work, through XRF readings taken from its recto and verso (or from the mount, where the verso was not accessible):

    • Recto: Al, Si, S, Ca, Mn, Fe, Zn, Sr, Ag, Pt, Pb
    • Mount: Al, Si, P, S, K, Ca, Mn, Fe, Zn

    The graphs below show XRF spectra for three areas on the print: two of the recto—from areas of maximum and minimum image density (Dmax and Dmin)—and one of the verso or mount. The background spectrum represents the contribution of the XRF instrument itself. The first graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the lower energy range (0 to 8 keV). The second graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the higher energy range (8 to 40 keV).

    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Al, Si, P, S, K, Ca, Ag, Pt
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Mn, Fe, Zn, Pt, Pb

In Context

Related Images

Paul Strand. Porch Shadows. 1916. Reproduced in Camera Work 49/50 (June 1917). © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

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