This 2002-2003 work by Strand is actually comprised of two complimentary sets, Gone Astray Portraits and Gone Away Details.
Portraits juxtaposes contemporary portrait subjects against a 19th century mural backdrop. Each subject, on closer inspection, carries a physical imperfection of some sort – torn clothing or bandaged arms for example.
The background and title link the work back to an 1853 Charles Dickens work by the same name about the anxieties of vulnerable boy lost in London.
Strand therefore puts these modern subjects within the context of the Dickens story. The subjects all show a vulnerability of some sort. The background places them in the same era as the Dickens tale. The suggestion is that these people are also vulnerable, lost in the Shoreditch area of East London despite their otherwise normal appearances. They lead double lives – a public ‘got it together’ one and a private, more anxious one.
It’s clear that Stand put a lot of preparation and planning into this work, engaging the services of a professional to ensure hair and wardrobe were meticulously prepared for the shoot.
Initially I found the work hard to engage with as the background raised associations with regency period portraits for me. I wonder if a backdrop of a Victorian London might have provided a stronger meaning. But the Dickens context brings things together in a clear and coherent way, raising questions of our personal vulnerabilities- which we all have whether we admit it or not. The work is as relevant toady as it was in 2003, in the modern fast-paced ego-driven and unforgiving corporate world.