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The Story of a Photograph: Walker Evans, Ellie Mae Burroughs, and the Great Depression (Kindle Singles) by [Thompson, Jerry L.]
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The Story of a Photograph: Walker Evans, Ellie Mae Burroughs, and the Great Depression (Kindle Singles) Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Length: 51 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Walker Evans, renowned for his slice-of-life photographs of Depression-era families, wasn't much for politics. But he knew a good deal when he saw one--so he jumped at the offer made by James Agee, a writer at Fortune, to use the best new equipment available to illustrate a series of articles on white Southern tenant farmers in 1936. According to Jerry Thompson, Evans' former assistant and author of The Story of a Photograph, the results enabled Evans to visually define a critical period in American history--whether he intended to or not. (The Evans-Agee collaboration eventually produced Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which did not sell well in either man's lifetime but has become a photojournalistic classic.) In the stark image most often associated with Evans' work, a young woman in a simple housedress stares down the lens. Ellie Mae Burroughs has a face that speaks volumes: of struggle, strength, and world-weariness. The story of how she came to pose for this iconic portrait leads Thompson to thoughtful, informed ruminations on the craft and purpose of creating art. "In good poetry, and especially in Evans's pictures, both the tenor and the vehicle matter," he writes. "Evans's best pictures are fact and symbol at the same time." --Mia Lipman

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Product Details

  • File Size: 1039 KB
  • Print Length: 51 pages
  • Publisher: Now and Then Reader (May 16, 2012)
  • Publication Date: May 16, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00846931Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,832 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Chambers HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on May 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We've all seen the photographs of Depression-era people and families in this country. Author Jerry L. Thompson takes us behind the scenes of one well-known photograph and examines the lives of both the photographer and his subject. Walker Evans was a talented photographer who was just starting out in his chosen profession when he hooked up with writer James Rufus Agee, and the two of them headed for the American South on a project for Fortune Magazine. In 1936, while on this assignment, Evans' photographed Ellie Mae Burroughs, the young wife of a tenant farmer in Hale County, Alabama. This haunting photograph would in time become a symbol of poverty and human tenacity during the Great Depression.

The author covered the lives of Evans and Agee and the impact that their work for Fortune magazine would have, even long after all the principals involved had passed on. As an avid amateur photographer, I was extremely impressed to read how Evans worked with both a large-format view camera and a smaller Leica. His most serious work - portraits - was done with the view camera, which required a lot of skill and patience. The use of flash bulbs for fill-in flash was just coming into play in the early 1930s, and was a hit-or-miss proposition with the comparatively crude equipment of the day. Coupled with the vagaries of the equipment of that era was the fact that Evans' darkroom was a thousand miles away, which meant that he was "shooting in the dark," so to speak.

I was also impressed to learn that Evans and Agee didn't just pop in and ask to take a quick series of photos, then leave to find other subjects. In some cases, as with the Burroughs family, they actually moved into their home and got to know the family, even participating in their daily life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As one who has long admired the FSA photos that make up a record of a key portion of our American heritage, it was good to find author and photographer Jerry L. Thompson's The Story of a Photograph: Walker Evans, Ellie Mae Burroughs, and the Great Depression offered here as a Kindle edition.

The author, who worked as his principal assistant during the last years of Walker Evans's life, takes us from the early years of Evans' life to his death in April 1975. I've always identified this iconic photo, usually known by its title "Alabama Tenant Farmer Wife" with the name Allie Mae Burroughs, but Jerry Thompson's explanation in this book clarifies that difference quite well:

"Evans's best pictures are fact and symbol at the same time. One of these best pictures--and certainly one of his best known--is the close portrait of Ellie Mae Burroughs. (She's sometimes called Allie Mae Burroughs, and in Evans's 1941 collaboration with the writer James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, she is given the name Annie Mae Gudger)."

We find that in his early years as a creative talent who began by wanting to write, Evans was gratified to read that his works dealt effectively in metaphor, and was particularly pleased to find this comment "not in the pages of U.S. Camera or Popular Photography but in a magazine of general (and rather high-toned) cultural appeal."

Walker Evans began to take photos in the late 1920s, and as early as 1929 was trying to establish himself as an artistic photographer. He had taken snapshots during a European trip, and upon his return to New York, he published his first images in 1930.
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Ellie Mae Burroughs is the uneducated, poor wife a tenant farmer, yet her observation of the work of two brilliant students is the most astute of them all. She thought the picture ugly. This book tells the story behind the picture, the technical details, and the set up behind the portraiture. This picture of the Depression had been underwritten by Roosevelt in an effort to make the poverty of the South understood to Democratic voters. Much has been written about the use of people as subjects, but as Ellie said, "It's true dear."
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As a collector of original 19th and 20th Century photography, I've owned a number of FSA Depression era photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. So I was fascinated by this "The Story of a Photograph," an examination of one of Walker Evan's most famous images, that of Ellie Mae Burroughs, a young woman whose face came to symbolize America's Great Depression. An insightful and entertaining book, I'd recommend it to the serious photographer, collector, or historian.
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This is the story about an evolving artist and what was perhaps his most famous image. I read this after getting "Walker Evans - American Photographs." There is a good biographical sketch of Evans that I found quite interesting, and there is some discussion of the exploitation of the poor people in the south for his (and others) gain. That was food for thought.

All in all I found it to be a good read.
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I bought this kindle book because I am interested n pictures and Appalachian living in the depression era. That is not what it is about, the picture is quite deceiving! It is about the photographer and his journey to and in his trade.
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