Talk | Fraser MacDonald | Tir a'Mhurain: Paul Strand and the Hebridean Cold War

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

This lecture examines the planning, conception and development of Paul Strand's Scottish photography – exactly sixty years after his summer residence in the Outer Hebrides. Strand’s status as one of the pre-eminent American photographers of the twentieth century is usually attributed to his early abstract works from 1916-1930. Rather less attention has been paid to his postwar photography in the period of his Cold War exile from McCarthyite America. On the islands of South Uist and Benbecula Strand completed over a hundred photogravures of people and landscape, many of which reflect a concern among Left-aligned artists and folklorists to ‘salvage’ oral Gaelic culture amid the threat of a militarised modernity. This lecture explores his resulting book, Tir a’Mhurain / Outer Hebrides, tracing connections between Strand’s radical politics and the distinctive forms of his modernism.

Fraser MacDonald is an historical geographer at the University of Edinburgh and a regular contributor to The Guardian. His work centres on the places and landscapes of twentieth century Scotland as well as on the histories of art, science and technology. His current project is a book on Frank Malina, an astronautical engineer and artist, whose pioneering rocket technology evolved into the world's first nuclear missile. When tested in South Uist in the late 1950s, this rocket became an oblique influence on the development of Paul Strand's Scottish portfolio.

This is a free event but places are limited. Please book your ticket here.

Paul Strand: A Young Boy, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954​ © Aperture Foundation, Inc., Paul Strand Archive