This early printing of Paul Strand’s 1946 Apple Tree in Full Bloom is a stunning celebration of texture, tonality and particularity of form. Dominating the composition, tiny snow-white petals cover the tree’s unwieldy branches, denying our eyes a sturdy focal point as we explore the surrounding aged growth. Strand implements his signature off-kilter monumentality, bringing us face-to-face with the tree’s complex beauty as well as his masterful framing and exacting technique.
The artist’s characteristic perfectionism was not limited to photographic printing, with Strand repeatedly insisting on extensive, time-consuming edits for his film projects as well. The post-production editing insisted upon by Strand for Manhatta (1921) and Native Land (1942) both led to difficulties with the films’ collaborators.
It is perhaps in part a frustration with the constraints and complications of cinematic collaboration that drove Strand to pursue a format that inhabits the space between singular fine art photography and mass produced film—the photobook. Allowing for complex sequencing, large distribution, pristine reproduction quality and in-depth exploration of place, Strand’s artistic production from 1945 onward is decidedly shaped by genre defining photobooks including Time in New England (1950), La France de Profil (1952), Un Paese (1955), Tir a’Mhurain (1962), Living Egypt (1959) and Ghana: An African Portrait (1963).
Apple Tree in Full Bloom comes from the larger body of work produced during the making of Time in New England, a project that came to fruition through the insight, collaboration and effort of photography historian and curator Nancy Newhall. Newhall recognized in Strand an ‘uncanny sense for place, for the forces that shape a region and its people’, and in his early photographs of New England ‘...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.’ (Strand and Newhall, Time in New England, Oxford, 1950).