Finding Paul Strand's Tir a' Mhurain: Resources

Travel, local, photographic and background material.

There is a wonderful collection of written, pictorial and video resources at the V&A website in connection with the comprehensive Paul Strand 'Photography and Film for the 20th Century' exhibition held May - July 2016:

The book 'Tir a' Mhurain' is to be released in a new third edition in summer 2016, and even at the pre-order rate this is keenly priced for what I am confident will be a well-reproduced and attractive volume that has to be on the purchase list of anyone interested in Strand's work:

The first and second editions of the book are often available from the usual second-hand book stores, but well-preserved copies are very pricey and have become much more so recently (I assume as a result of increased interest after the V&A exhibition). These editions have some subtle differences both in detailed choice of images and in their reproduction: to my eye the first edition's images are better chosen, although their printing in the copies I have seen gives slightly muddier midtones and more heavily blocked shadows. The original edition was printed at Strand's insistence in eastern Europe and this may have affected the reproduction, although the passage of years will have had its own effect.

Interesting online articles and reviews about Strand, especially relating to his time in the Outer Hebrides include:

'Photographers of the Western Isles' by Martin Padget was published by Birlinn in 2010 and includes scholarly but very well written appreciations of Strand and other eminent photographers' work in the Outer Hebrides from the dawn of photography. This is often available for reasonable cost from the usual second hand book sources, but here is the listing on Amazon:

Farm machinery

I was lucky in my choice of accommodation and sustenance on the islands, which are not exactly brimming with reliable choices for either...
While on North Uist I enjoyed my stay at Langass Lodge: the managerial and waiting staff are charming and their food is very fine and enjoyed best in the bar while watching the evening light touching the mountain of Eabhal in the middle distance:

I thoroughly recommend the wonderful Heron Point B&B on the western edge of Lochboisdale, South Uist. Andy and Jan are excellent and generous hosts, enthusiastic mines of useful local information, and their book collection introduced me to the brilliant Hebridean photographic work of Gus Wylie and Werner Kissling: 

I discovered after my return that Strand and his wife stayed at the Lochboisdale Hotel during their 3-month stay on the islands in 1954:

Benbecula communications

I ate really well several times for lunch and supper at the Polochar Inn at the southern tip of South Uist, and they also offer accommodation:

The Am Politician pub on Eriskay is a welcome watering hole with hearty, pleasant food: ask to see the famous whisky bottles recovered from the sea that they keep behind the bar: 

On both visits I rented an excellent small car from the lovely Duncan & Morag at Autotec Uist, who deliver and collect from Benbecula Airport:  

In 2016 flew BA from London City airport return to Glasgow, and then FlyBe return to Benbecula. In 2017 I flew from Glasgow to the Barra beach landing in a twin otter run by LoganAir, and there will be a separate blog post on that.

In Glasgow I recommend the Amadeus and Alamo Guesthouses in Kelvingrove, the marvellous Stravaigin pub/restaurant and Two Fat Ladies. Glasgow is a wonderful city for street photography, as a refreshing change from landscape...

Bornish towards Airneabhal

For my photography in 2016 I carried two Olympus E-M1 camera bodies with Olympus 17mm f1.8 and  Panasonic 12-35 f2.8 and 35-100 f2.8 lenses. In my view the compact and light mirrorless micro-4/3 system is ideally suited to travel of this type where massive enlargements and heavy cropping of images is not needed (and for which larger sensor cameras might be advisable). The weather-sealing of the bodies and lenses of this system is invaluable in view of the inevitable windblown sand, sea-spray and rain in these locations. 
In some cases I used a Giottos carbon fibre traveller tripod and ballhead. If space and weight allowances permit I would now recommend bringing a heavier tripod, even if you are using light, mirrorless equipment, because the fierce Outer Hebridean wind is blustery and unrelenting. 
Images were post-processed with the Capture One 9 Pro raw converter, and sometimes with Nik Software HDR eFex Pro, Silver eFex Pro and Color eFex Pro applications running in standalone mode.

In 2017 I used an Olympus E-M1 mark ii body with Panasonic 15mm f1.7 and Olympus 12-100 f4 and 300mm f4 lenses, sometimes with the 1.4 teleconverter. I carried my heavier Manfrotto tripod and Markins ballhead, but the superb dual image stabilisation of the camera body and 12-100 lens meant I rarely had to use it even for dawn and dusk images (as in the sunset image above, taken on the beach south of Orosay at 200ASA and f8 at an effective focal length of 82mm, handheld at 1/13th of a second).

Bornish towards Barra

Copyright notes

To illustrate my pages on this site it has proved impossible to find good quality, copyright free versions of Strand's images that are important to my illustrative, artistic and historical purposes, and so I have used images scanned from my own copy of the first edition of Tir a' Mhurain. I have illustrated the main 'Finding Strand' and introductory sections with reasonable-quality scans of the book's images, but this will only ever amount to a few percent of the total content of the book, and as such is allowed by UK copyright law as part of a 'review', which in my view is appropriate.
I have deliberately restricted the depiction of other scans of Stand's images to small, low-quality thumbnails. This is adequate for my artistic and photographic purposes, and I hope it will be acceptable to the copyright holders.
Please note that this is a non-profit site (in fact, I pay for its hosting), and my own images are freely available in the resolution displayed on the site. My sole aims are to find and illustrate the shooting locations of Strand's images to aid others researching and enjoying his work, and to increase general knowledge and appreciation of him as a photographer. If thereby I increase sales of current editions of his books then I shall be delighted. Also, please note that the first edition of Tir a' Mhurain was published over 50 years ago, while Strand himself died 40 years ago. Should the copyright holders, or anyone who can direct me to copyright-free versions of these images, wish to contact me to discuss these issues please do so via the Contact page on this site.

Daisies in the machair

Finding Strand: Croft, Loch Carnan

Paul Strand and Tir a' Mhurain: An introduction