Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
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© Aperture Foundation

Paul Strand
American, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, 1931
Platinum print
4 5/8 x 5 7/8 in.

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"I became interested in photographing some of the last vestiges of what was the frontier in America," wrote Paul Strand of photographing in New Mexico. Here he transformed the adobe church of Ranchos de Taos in northern New Mexico into an abstract sculpture dominating the frame, its pure, clean lines and surfaces like hand-wrought building blocks. Each wall face is a different shade of gray, determined by the intense and even light that falls on the building from the right. The dramatic, stormy-looking sky barely visible along the top portends future trouble for this serene scene. The sparse vegetation and cracks in the corner foundation serve to establish some sense of scale and to ground the otherworldly form in a real space.