Masters of Photography: Walker Evans


In 1938 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City organized its first one person photography exhibit – Walker Evans American Photographs.

Its was perhaps the museums first recognition of the individual photograph as fine art.

 

75 years later MoMA brought back the exhibit and its accompanying book.

“A style that reads as no style”

 

Paintings by Cy Twombly, Agnes Martin, and Frantz Kline have been displaced from their positions in the permanent- collection galleries to make way for a roomful of Walker Evans pictures. They’re hung in celebration of the seventy-fith anniversary of the museum’s first one-person photography show and its even more influential catalogue. As in 1938, the exhibition includes pictures of people and places, many of them made under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration, the New Deal agency charged with documenting rural poverty. But Evans was never a strictly objective observer; for all their blunt simplicity, his photographs are sharply opinionated, as “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”, his 1941 collaboration with James Agee, made quite clear. In his essay for ” Amercian Photographs,” Lincoln Kirstein describes Evans as both a “visual doctor, diagnoctician rather than specialist, ” and ” the family physician, quiet and dispassionate. ” However one defines his role, the photographer made work that was once plainspoken and eloquent – images that still define something essential and true about America and Americans. Throught Jan. 26. (Vince Alletti The New Yorker 2013-07-25)

Published on the occasion of a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, American Photographs fused Evans’s avid learning from European books and journals about complex sequencing with his acute attention to bodies, faces, and places eclipsed by modern progress. No celebrities, no soaring skyscrapers — in fact, nothing very new at all. This was a world persisting against the grain. The inscrutable photographs in suggestive, provocative order were the antithesis of the slick Life photo-stories Evans detested. (David Campany Aperture Magazine 2012-12-01)

For those who have been waiting for years to own this classic photobook — one of the very best and most influential photobooks ever published, in fact — this is your chance. To mark the 75th anniversary of the original 1938 publication, the Museum of Modern Art has reissued American Photographs for the first time since 1988 (the 50th anniversary). While there were previous reissues, in 1962 and 1971, the book has often been out of print and hard to find, which has caused secondhand copies to soar. Not only is it a pleasure to see it back in print at an affordable price, but, according to the jacket copy, the editors and printers have used digital technology to “aid in emulating the precise cropping and finely tuned balance of the 1938 reproductions, capturing as never before the look and feel of the first edition.” Certainly this book, with its iconic play grey dust jacket, elegant typography and blind-stamped black cloth binding, looks and feels timeless. (John Dorfman Art & Antiques 2012-11-01)

“Walker Evans helped Americans discover themselves…a book populated by Depression-haunted souls.” (The New York Times 2012-07-22)

 

Tribute to Walker Evans –¬†Photographs by Edward M. Fielding

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