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Walker Evans: Masters of Photography Series (Aperture Masters of Photography) Hardcover – June 15, 2005
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Numerous introductions to works of art or photography can be easily skipped, but in the case of John Szarkowski’s introduction to this work, I would urge that every word be read. Szarkowski describes Evans as a “conventional, if well-groomed, bohemian.” As such, he went to Paris during the ‘20’s, and returned with ideas that would challenge the two great acknowledged photographers of the era: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. He was given a polite interview with Stieglitz, and modest encouragement.
The one steady job in his youth, with a secure income, was the brief period that he worked for the New Deal agency, the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Roy Stryker was both a photographer and manager, and headed the FSA. In addition to Evans, he recruited some of the best talent of the period, including Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn. As Szarkowski explains, Stryker’s objective was in large measure political: explain the rural poor to the urban poor and thus preserve the tenuous coalition which had brought the New Deal to power. Ironically, Evans himself was neither political nor a populist, and there were major difference between the Stryker and Evans… the former a populist, striving for a political purpose, the other an artist of aristocratic temperament. When the funds for the agency were tightened, Stryker let Evans go in 1937.
Other insights into Evans’ work that Szarkowski provides: he preferred to take “old-fashioned photographs,” and not embrace the latest techniques based on the technical advances of cameras. He would try to “trick luck,” that all so ephemeral photo-op into serving his own prejudices. And the author admirably expressed the staying power of his photographs: “their ability to implant themselves like seeds in a crevice of the mind, where the slow clockwork of germination begins.”
There are many other photographs besides those taken in Hale County. Evans spent time in Cuba, and photographed the soot-covered dock workers. In NYC he would hide his camera under his jacket, and take photos surreptitiously of passengers seated opposite him. There are numerous photos of the people of Chicago. In addition to the old wooden structures taken in the rural south, as is featured on the cover, he also photographed the abandoned mansions in Louisiana, such as Belle Grove plantation.
Evans was alive when this work was published. Since 1965, he had been a professor at Yale, teaching photography, and becoming a “Stieglitz” to the new era of inspiring photographers. Evans would die the same year as Roy Stryker did: 1975.
The seeds of his work continue to germinate: 5-stars for this excellent tribute.
Walker Evans marvelous photography is understandably legendary. As a figurative painter I wallow in the sheer raw humanity in these images, and am continually inspired by great photography. Evans makes it seem too easy...as great artists so often do.
that brings us to the like it part;
However great this collection of images...this particular volume, has small reproductions. I'm sure these photos need HUGE...GARGANTUAN...HUMONGOUS PRINTS FOR BETTER VIEWING...BUT barring that...these will do.