Evans, Walker

American (1903-1975)


Walker Evans seems to have been enamored with both words and images. He studied French literature for a year at Williams College, before dropping out. Traveling to Paris and New York City, he fell in with the literary crowd, befriended by John Cheever and Hart Crane. But writing was not to be his main pursuit. In 1928, Evans took up photography and was soon receiving freelance assignments, often handed to him because of his ability to capture the raw, gritty underbelly of things. He was soon tapped by the government for several longer term projects with the Resettlement and Farm Security Administrations; some of his most potent images of the Great Depression resulted.

In 1936, Evans traveled with the writer James Agee to Alabama for Fortune magazine. They were to capture stories and images of three farming families living in poverty. When Fortune opted not to use the story, the collaborators published the now-famous book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). A classic, cited by both writers and photographers as inspiration for what they do, it nevertheless angered the families, who believed they had been cast as doomed and ignorant. Following this project, Evans went independent, but continued to find ways to explore intersections between text and image. He became a staff writer at Time magazine in 1945, and shortly after took on an editorial position at Fortune as well. He also continued to pursue intriguing photographic projects as well, ranging from a series of shots taken with a hidden camera on the New York subway system to images that explore the visual contrast between flashy advertising slogans and logos and the often decrepit environments in which they appear.