Paul Strand and Cesare Zavattini’s 'Un paese' (1955) : the art, synergy and politics of a photobook
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"Paul Strand and Cesare Zavattini’s 'Un paese' (1955): the art, synergy and politics of a photobook" is a study of the genesis, production and reception of the photobook 'Un paese', created in a collaboration between the American photographer Paul Strand and the Italian neorealist screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. Set in Luzzara, a small town in northern Italy, Strand portrayed the community in a series of images of the landscape, the townsfolk and still lives. The thesis reconstructs the reasoning behind Strand’s decision to abandon documentary filmmaking for the creation of photobooks. Strand and the critic Elizabeth McCausland are shown to have specifically conceptualised the photobook as a hybrid form capable of communicating a multifaceted political message through a narrative synthesis of text and image, utilising strategies drawn from documentary film, the photomural and mass media publications. It is shown how Strand and his collaborators combined image and text placed within a deliberately spare graphic design and layout, to emphasise the solidity and importance of the subject matter, and to privilege the communicatory capacity of the photograph. In addition, this thesis reorients the study of Strand from concentration on his early individual fine prints to the collaboratively created political artworks of his later career. It is argued that Strand’s production of photobooks is directly related to his status as a Marxist American expatriate who left the United States to avoid blacklisting at the end of the 1940s. By carefully choosing the sites where he worked, utilising realist photographic strategies developed earlier in his career, and collaborating with sympathetic writers, Strand’s photobooks present the idealised image of communitarian, primarily agrarian life. 'Un paese' is shown in this thesis to typify Strand’s working method; to visually and materially embody his creative and political beliefs; and to exemplify the intermedial collaboration required by the photobook.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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