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Black Bottle
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© Aperture Foundation

Paul Strand
American, negative about 1919, print 1923 - 1939
Gelatin silver print
12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.
86.XM.686.5

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The photographer's problem is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the prerequisite of a living expression. This means a real respect for the thing in front of him expressed in terms of chiaroscuro...

So wrote Paul Strand two years before he made this negative of a black bottle sitting in a white sink. Through the manipulation of light and dark tones, Strand transformed this ordinary subject matter. The four overflow drain holes become graphic markings in the upper left, while the muted gray shadow cast by the bottle assumes an almost-human form against the porcelain. The diagonals of light that illuminate the scene appear like radiant beams.