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Scarce ‘Photographs of Mexico’ book sells for $15,000

An image from Paul Strand’s Photographs of Mexico

A scarce photography book by Paul Strand, whose modernist images helped turn photography into an art form, has sold for $15,000 on AbeBooks.com.

Photographs of Mexico was published in 1940 and features stark black and white hand-pulled photogravure images. Strictly speaking, it’s a portfolio of 20 loose leaf images. Strand, an American born in New York, took the images on several trips to Mexico between 1933 and 1934.

Only 250 copies were printed

The images feature landscapes, buildings and people, and can be classified as important examples of social realism – an art movement where ordinary people and their humble surroundings are displayed. Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Margaret Bourke-White are other examples of social realist photographers.

Photographs of Mexico was published by Strand’s second wife, Virginia Stevens. Just 250 copies were printed. Only one other copy is listed for sale on AbeBooks.com, at $13,506.

Photogravure is a printing method where a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a print that can reproduce the detail of a photograph.

In the introduction to Photographs of Mexico, Strand thanks the technicians at the Photogravure and Color Company, and writes “I believe that these hand gravures mark a step forward in the art of reproduction processes.”

Stand’s other subjects have included Outer Hebrides, Egypt, and Ghana. His images of New York’s Wall Street are famous for showing faceless workers trudging between enormous buildings dedicated to capitalism and wealth.


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