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"Sheik Ali Gournah," Egypt

Paul Strand


Paul Strand was a pupil of Lewis Wickes Hine, who encouraged Strand to turn his hobby into his life’s work. After a visit to Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery in New York, Strand dedicated himself to the modernist aesthetic. Although his early interests focused on urban sites and machinery, eventually he turned to nature and portraiture in his search for purity of vision. His simple, straightforward portraits gradually became a quest for ideal beauty, seen in the inherent dignity of his subjects.

Strand left the United States in the early 1950s to escape McCarthyism and lived in France for the rest of his life. He also travelled widely and spent long periods of time in Italy, the Outer Hebrides, Egypt, and Ghana. Strand turned experiences from his trips into photographic books, in which he tried to encapsulate the distinctive character of the places and the people he photographed. In this portrait from Egypt of Sheik Ali Gournah, Strand sought a precise vision of character through contrast, texture, and light. This technique expresses what he termed “an aesthetic based on the objective nature of reality.”
MEDIUM Gelatin silver print
DATES 1959
DIMENSIONS Image: 13 3/8 x 10 5/8 in. (34 x 27 cm) Sheet: 13 7/8 x 11 in. (35.2 x 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed center verso on mount in blue ball point pen: "Paul Strand"
INSCRIPTIONS Inscribed center verso under signature in blue ball point pen: "1959"; inscribed upper left verso in pencil: "Sheik Ali Gournah, Egypt, 1959"
CREDIT LINE Gift of Naomi and Walter Rosenblum
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Paul Strand (American, 1890–1976). "Sheik Ali Gournah," Egypt, 1959. Gelatin silver print, Image: 13 3/8 x 10 5/8 in. (34 x 27 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Naomi and Walter Rosenblum, 85.193.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 85.193.2_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 85.193.2_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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