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Walker Evans

(1903—1975)


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(1903–75)

American photographer. He began his career as an architectural photographer but he is best known for the work he did in the late 1930s commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, documenting the lives of sharecroppers under the harsh conditions of the Great Depression. In 1936 he spent three weeks with three sharecropper families in Alabama alongside the writer James Agee. The original purpose was to produce a magazine feature; this never materialized but the work finally resulted in the book Let us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). His most famous single image is the gravely dignified portrait of Allie Mae Burroughs, a member of one of the families with which he stayed. However, historians of photography have pointed out that his great strength as a photographer is not adequately represented by this work, as it does not manifest his use of settings and objects. Moreover, for Evans, the single photographs took their meaning from being presented in sequence in book form. The dust‐jacket of American Photographs (1938) instructed the reader of this explicitly, so making the images almost analogous to the series of shots within a film. Ian Jeffrey has described his photographs as ‘encyclopedic, rich with details of daily life’ and has compared them to the work of Eugène Atget, whom Evans much admired.

Subjects: Art.


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