To ensure his photos would not be confiscated by authorities, Walker Evans entrusted a trove of 46 prints made in 1933 Havana to his friend — Ernest Hemingway.
It seems fitting that during Walker Evans’s one-month stay in Havana in 1933 he would befriend Ernest Hemingway. The two shared an appreciation of a spare style that would influence countless others in photography and literature. In fact, Evans entrusted Hemingway with a trove of original prints to ensure they would not be confiscated by the authorities who were violently suppressing popular outrage against the dictator Gerardo Machado.
From grizzled cotton farmers to quiet small-town scenes of buildings and signs, Walker Evans built his reputation on chronicling America’s out-of-the-way places and people.
A turning point for Evans was his decision — like many young men of means — to go to Paris in 1926 to study for a year at the Sorbonne. His stay filled his head with ideas gleaned from Flaubert and Baudelaire, but it was another Frenchman — Eugène Atget — whose work affected him the most, leading to the dry, observational style that became his visual signature.
In the summer of 1946, on assignment for Fortune magazine, Evans spent an afternoon at an intersection in downtown Detroit, photographing passersby.
the photographs Evans took in Detroit in July of 1946, when, on assignment for Fortune magazine, he spent an afternoon at a downtown intersection, shooting passersby with a Rolleiflex camera held at waist level
Walker Evans may be best known for his 1935 and 1936 Farm Security Administration documentary photos, but he had a long career that explored a range of...
Walker Evans may be best known for his 1935 and 1936 Farm Security Administration documentary photos, but he had a long career that explored a range of styles and techniques. Walker Evans: Depth of Field, which Prestel published in November, provides the most comprehensive book-length look yet at the work of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
Like the work of most great artists, the best of Walker Evans’ pictures are marvels of contradiction. Or, rather, they acquire their power through the contradictions they deftly reconcile. One especially striking example: a photograph from 1930 (slide 11 in this gallery) comprised of elements so incongruous that, taken together, they really should not bear scrutiny for more than a few moments before the viewer, shrugging indifferently, moves on.
"I was damn well going to be an artist and I wasn't going to be a businessman."
Interview Excerpt from, Leslie Katz with Walker Evans, 1971.
Leslie Katz: You took photographs of whatever interested you?
Walker Evans: Oh yes. I was a passionate
Roadside stand near Birmingham, Alabama, 1936
"I didn't like the label that I unconsciously earned of being a social protest artist."
"The Thing Itself is Such a Secret and so Unapproachable"
George Eastman House, Image Magazine, Vol. 17., No.
Walker Evans: I guess I'm the only survivor of my age of the school of non-commercial and extremely self-virtuous young artists that I was when I was your age. We wouldn't do anything we were asked to do, and we fought around it. Of course that kills most people. For some reason or another it didn't kill me. And I feel that since I've progressed rather slowly, I still have a long career ahead of me.
Incidentally, part of a photographer's gift should be with people. You can do some wonderful work if you know how to make people understand what you're doing and feel all right about it, and you can do terrible work if you put them on the defense, which they all are at the beginning. You've got to take them off their defensive attitude and make them participate.
The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Walker Evans conducted by Paul Cummings for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. The interview took place at the home of Walker Evans in Connecticut on October 13, 1971 and in his apartment in New York City on December 23, 1971.
The influence is not limited to photographers. At the opening of the Museum of Modern Art's 1971 Walker Evans retrospective, Robert Penn Warren spoke of the first time he had seen Evans's work: "....Staring at the pictures, I knew that my familiar world was a world I had never known. The veil of familiarity prevented my seeing it. Then, thirty years ago, Walker tore aside that veil; he woke me from the torpor of the accustomed."
Walker Evans (1903-75), whose work is currently (2000) on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was an American photographer who produced some remarkable images, particularly in the 1930s and 1940s. He is perhaps best known, rightly or wrongly, for a series of photographs he took of tenant farm families in Hale County, Alabama in 1936. Of those probably the most famous are several 8 x 10 portraits of Allie Mae Burroughs, dark hair pulled back, tightlipped, against unpainted wooden clapboards. There are not many other photos one can think of that “stand” for a moment in history and are so widely assumed to have summed up the situation of a suffering population as these do.
Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans: America exposed
Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans: America exposed |guardian.co.uk:
In 2001, Henri Cartier-Bresson reflected on the long moment in the early 1940s when he had briefly considered turning from photography to film-making. “If it had not been for the challenge of the work of Walker Evans,” he wrote, “I don’t think I would have remained a photographer.”
It’s this quote that provides the epigraph for Photographing America 1929-1947, a fascinating book that focuses on these two masters of 20th-century photography.