Gone Astray

Clare Strand is a conceptual artist who uses photography in her work. Some of her more recent works, such as ‘The Happenstance Generator’ (2015) and The Entropy Pendulum’ (2015), explore randomness though the intermediation of mechanical devices acting on photographs. (Brown, 2017) The work that we are directed towards for present study is ‘Gone Astray – Portraits’ (2002/3).

This series, together with the parallel ‘Gone Astray – Details’ arose from a period of residency with the London University of the Arts and considers twinned or conflicting themes: urban/rural, real/artificial or historical/contemporary. The title, but little else, is taken from an 1853 essay (republished in book form, 1912) by Charles Dickens about an allegedly autobiographical child’s adventure lost in London.

A slideshow of a subset of the images can be found on Strand’s website, and one example is shown below.



The images are incongruous at first sight, appearing to show young urban people in a countryside setting. Closer examination, particularly of the creases in the floor, show that the figures are posed against a painted backdrop for a further dichotomy (reality versus overt artificiality) which , according to Mullen (2008), were influenced by Strand hearing of Victorian photographers using circus tent fabric for backgrounds.

I am reminded of Victorian and early 20th-century carte-de-visite and cabinet photography with its artificial backgrounds and antiqued props but with a historic/contemporary twist because the subjects are in modern dress. There is a further contrast from a photography type that would once be carefully prepared and refined; all of the subjects have some imperfection (the laddered stocking in the image above, a dislodged false eyelash, a slouch or a crutch). There is a lot for the viewer to consider and interpret.

This is a series which, on one level fits with the semi-studio work of Avedon and Penn, considered in the previous post, but I am not convinced that these are portraits. These are constructed images using models, carefully dressed and posed to fit a concept, rather than saying anything about the character or identity of the subjects.


Brown, C. (2017) The surreal in the work of Clare Strand [online] Available at https://www.photomonitor.co.uk/surreal-work-clare-strand [Accessed 13 January 2019].

Mullen, C (2008) Clare Strand in conversation with Chris Mullen [facsimile pages online] Available at http://www.fulltable.com/VTS/mullen/june/b [Accessed 13 January 2019].

Strand, C. (undated) Works – Gone Astray Portraits (2002/3) [online] Available at https://www.clarestrand.co.uk/works/?id=100 [Accessed 13 January 2019].



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