Photographs by Paul Strand are bought for Scotland

Published 25 July 2015

Nine photographs of South Uist have been acquired by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery with help from the Art Fund.

One of the most important American photographers in history, Paul Strand spent several decades living and working in Europe. Following a solo show in 1945 at MoMA in New York, which featured some of his more political works, Strand came under scrutiny as McCarthyism swept America. He fled to France where he embarked on a search for an ideal community that he could capture on camera. This pursuit led Strand to visit South Uist, an island off the west coast of Scotland, in 1954.

It was a radio programme on the Gaelic songs of South Uist that inspired Strand to travel to the island, an impoverished community where most families depended on agriculture and fishing to survive. Strand was keen to understand his subjects and their daily lives, so he spent weeks observing the people he would later photograph. From his series capturing the island and its people, nine key works have been acquired for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: four striking portraits of the local residents and five photographs of the island's evocative landscapes.

The photographs are the first example of Strand’s Scottish works going into a public collection in Scotland. Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: ‘Paul Strand was a photographic pioneer but he is under-represented in UK collections and not at all in Scotland, so we are very pleased to support this acquisition for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. This series of remarkable images from the Hebrides has an especially important resonance for the gallery’s collections, and furthermore will sit well alongside works in the permanent collection by photographers influenced by Strand.’

The photographs will form part of the current Collecting Now exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which runs until 20 September.

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