Time in New England

Time in New England

Time in New England

Time in New England

Excerpt

The first photographs by Paul Strand I ever saw were great images of forest, raindrops, and rock made on the Maine coast in 1927 and 1928. They struck with the force of a revelation. Here was what I had known and felt as a child close to the same earth and had never found expressed in any medium. Then, in the winter of 1944, Strand photographed in Vermont stone walls and churches which embodied that new England from whose hold few New Englanders --or Americans--have ever wholly escaped.

Yet the man who understood and expressed these things was not a New Englander either by birth or by descent. Paul Strand, as I became aware while directing his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1945, has an uncanny sense for place, for the forces that shape a region and its people, whether his native New York City, the Gaspé, Mexico, or Maine.

One day in 1945 we were discussing a proposal that he make a book about New England. What about the text? Of what should it consist and who should do it? 'Why, the New Englanders themselves, of course,' said I instantly. 'Thoreau and Emily Dickinson and Melville and Hawthorne--who better? It shouldn't be hard to find what you need.'

At once I regretted this rash statement and for several weeks tried to shunt the job off on some New England scholar long since embedded in a library. But I was already caught. Here was a chance to examine firsthand the enigma of New England, unobscured by either its critics or its champions. Further, here was the challenge of a new form: could the words of the eyewitness-- not captions or pseudo-verse, but actual letters, poems, journals, some of them three centuries old--be joined . . .

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