Text and Image Photography

New Images Photography

Make a Fence Your Primary Subject

In White Fence, Port Kent, 1916, Paul Strand did the unthinkable: He made a fence the primary subject of a photograph. For the first time, a photographer used an image to focus on geometrical elements. It was the onset of the modernist movement. In this case, it was the lines that made up the fence that were being emphasized. The image is high contrast with a sharp focus, which is what back then was referred to as straight photography.

In the image, a fence extends from the right edge of the frame to the left. The fence reaches through the bottom half of the frame more than halfway to the top. Behind the fence, in the background, are two buildings, one behind the other. Prominent on the building closest to the fence is a door with four X’s, two on top and two on the bottom. “Why did I photograph that white fence up in Port Kent, New York, in 1916?” Strand said of the image, “Because the fence itself was fascinating to me. It was very much alive, very American, very much a part of the country.”

In a similar image (above), a light-colored fence is shown as the primary object in the frame. It’s longer than the strand fence and doesn’t stretch horizontally through the frame. Instead, it rises at an angle through the frame, becoming horizontal near the right edge of the frame. The vertical lines in the image are just as prominent as those in Strand’s fence.

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