Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Walker Evans was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1903. After spending time in Paris, hoping to be a writer, Walker moved to the Greenwich area of New York where he developed a passion for photography. Evans photographed in the ‘Vernacular’ style, everyday aspects of American life, rejecting the ‘overly aesthetic’ and commercial success of photographers notably that of ‘Alfred Steiglitz’ (1864-1946). Evans photography at the time was ‘against the grain’ and he spoke of the aesthetic ‘salon’ style of photography as “Conventional, Cliché & Uninspiring”(Interview with Paul Cummings Oct-Dec 71 Archives of American Art). In 1935, the FSA hired Evans to document workers of the depression to provide an account of rural America. This became the most recognised body of work from Evans.
Alabama Tenant Farmer Wife, 1936 Gelatin silver print 8 1/4 x 11/16 in.
In 1938 the Museum of Modern Art held its’ first solo photographic exhibition called ‘American Photographs’ by Walker Evans. The accompanying book of the same title is said to be ‘The most influential book of the modern era’ (Brittanica)
“Not since the 1850s when Napoleon III employed Gustave Le Gray and Charles Negre had such superb photographers (Evans, Dorothea Lange) of self-conscious, artistic ambition worked for a government. The result in both cases was a splendid if unstable concord between photography’s artistic identity and its worldly applications.” (Peter Galassi Chief Curator for MOMA -‘American Photography 1890-1965)
References: Brittanica.com/American Photography 1890-1965 MOMA/Archives of American Art/Oxford Art Online.