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Walker Evans

Walker Evans in 1937
Born November 3, 1903(1903-11-03)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Died April 10, 1975 (aged 71)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
For the off-road and NASCAR driver, see Walker Evans (racer).

Walker Evans (November 3, 1903 – April 10, 1975) was an American photographer best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans's work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8x10-inch camera. He said that his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that are "literate, authoritative, transcendent" [1] Many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums, and have been the subject of retrospectives at such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or George Eastman House.[2]

Contents

Biography

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Walker Evans came from a well off family. He graduated from Phillips Academy, in Andover, Mass. He studied French literature for a year at Williams College, spending much of his time in the school's library, before dropping out. After spending a year in Paris, he returned to the United States to join the edgy literary and art crowd in New York City. John Cheever, Hart Crane, and Lincoln Kirstein were among his friends.

Evans took up photography in 1928[1]. In 1933, he photographed in Cuba on assignment for the publisher of Carleton Beals' then-forthcoming book, The Crime of Cuba, photographing the revolt against the dictator Gerardo Machado. In Cuba, Evans briefly knew Ernest Hemingway.

Evans's photo of Allie Mae Burroughs, a symbol of the Great Depression

In 1935, Evans spent two months at first on a fixed-term photographic campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October on, he continued to do photographic work for the RA and later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in the Southern states.

In the summer of 1936, while still working for the FSA, he and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans's photographs and Agee's text detailing the duo's stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. Noting a similarity to the Beals' book, the critic Janet Malcolm, in her 1980 book Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography, has pointed out the contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee's prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans's photographs of sharecroppers.

The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were "Soviet agents," although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd's wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evan's photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue[3]. Charles Burroughs, who was four years old when Evans and Agee visited the family, was "still angry" at them for not even sending the family a copy of the book; the son of Floyd Burroughs was also reportedly angry because the family was "cast in a light that they couldn't do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant"[3].

Evans continued to work for the FSA until 1938. That year, an exhibition, Walker Evans: American Photographs, was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the first exhibition in this museum devoted to the work of a single photographer. The catalogue included an accompanying essay by Lincoln Kirstein, whom Evans had befriended in his early days in New York.

In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title Many are Called. In 1938 and 1939, Evans worked with and mentored Helen Levitt.

Evans, like such other photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, rarely spent time in the darkroom making prints from his own negatives. He only very loosely supervised the making of prints of most of his photographs, sometimes only attaching handwritten notes to negatives with instructions on some aspect of the printing procedure.

Evans was a passionate reader and writer, and in 1945 became a staff writer at Time magazine. Shortly afterward he became an editor at Fortune magazine through 1965. That year, he became a professor of photography on the faculty for Graphic Design at the Yale University School of Art (formerly the Yale School of Art and Architecture).

In 1971, the Museum of Modern Art staged a further exhibition of his work entitled simply Walker Evans.

Evans died at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975.[4]

In 1994, The Estate of Walker Evans handed over its holdings to New York City's The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[5] The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the sole copyright holder for all works of art in all media by Walker Evans. The only exception is a group of approximately 1,000 negatives in collection of the Library of Congress which were produced for the Resettlement Administration (RA) / Farm Security Administration (FSA). Evan's RA / FSA works are in the public domain.[6]

In 2000, Evans was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[7]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Metropolitan Museum of Art. More about Walker Evans. Retrieved September 13, 2008.
  2. ^ Walker Evans, by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Maria Morris Hambourg, Douglas Eklund, Mia Fineman (Princeton University Press, 2000) ISBN 0691050783, ISBN 978-0691050782
  3. ^ a b Whitford, David. The Most Famous Story We Never Told. Fortune, September 19, 2005.
  4. ^ Walker Evans: Photographer of America By Thomas Nau Edition: illustrated Published by Macmillan, 2007, p. 59
  5. ^ Wired Magazine. "Is It Art, or Memorex?" by Reena Jana. March 21, 2001.
  6. ^ Masters of Photography website: Walker Evans page
  7. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame website: Walker Evans page

References

Further reading

  • Rathbone, Belinda (2002). Walker Evans: A Biography. Thomas Allen & Son Ltd.. ISBN 0-618-05672-6. 
  • Storey, Isabelle (2007). Walker's Way: My Years With Walker Evans. powerHouse Books. ISBN 978-1-57687-362-5. 
  • Hambourg, Maria Morris; Jeff Rosenheim, Douglas Eklund, Mia Fineman (2000). Walker Evans. Princeton University Press / The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0-691-11965-1. 
  • Rosenheim, Jeff; Douglas Eklund. Alexis Scwarzenbach. ed. Unclassified: A Walker Evans Anthology. Maria Morris Hambourg. Scalo / The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 3-908247-21-7. 
  • Leicht, Michael (2006). Wie Katie Tingle sich weigerte, ordentlich zu posieren und Walker Evans darüber nicht grollte. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld. ISBN 3-89942-436-0. 
  • Worswick, Clark; Belinda Rathbone (2000). Walker Evans: The Lost Work. Arena Editions. ISBN 1-892041-29-4. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Walker Evans (1903-11-031975-04-10) was an American photographer best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans' work from the FSA period uses the large-format 8x10in view camera, which when used directly in front of a subject would create the appearance of a dispassionate viewpoint. Evans and other FSA photographers used this technique and others to emphasize the plight of America's poor and workers during the Depression. In some ways, Evans is perhaps the first and greatest photographer of the American social landscape.

Unsourced

  • Stare, it is the way to educate your eyes, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop.
  • Die knowing something. You are not here long.

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