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AbeBooks Seller Since October 16, 2014Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: Walker Evans
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 2000
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
About this title
A tenant farmer's deprivation-lined face. Antebellum homes that have seen better days. The display windows of small-town main streets. The early subway commuter. Billboards. The images made by photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975) are icons of national identity that have shaped Americans' views of themselves and directly influenced important currents of modern art. This major catalogue--published to accompany a retrospective exhibition originating at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and traveling to San Francisco and Houston--presents the full range of Evans's work, from his 1920s black-and-white street scenes of anonymous urban dwellers to the color photographs of signs and letter forms from his final years.
Soon after he returned from Paris to New York City in 1927, Evans began contributing to the development of American photography. He captured the substance of people and buildings with a spare elegance that is utterly unpretentious. His gaze is serious but often amused as well, direct yet never simple. During the 1930s, Evans traveled throughout the South to chronicle the effects of economic hardship. The time that he and writer James Agee spent with Alabama sharecropper families yielded an evocative, honest record of the Great Depression, which was published in book form as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). Evans then turned his lens back on New Yorkers, photographing subway riders with a camera hidden in his coat. He continued to influence American self-perception as staff photographer for Fortune from 1945 until he accepted a professorship at Yale in 1965.
Evans--who always chose art over what he criticized as artiness--wrote, in Photography (1969), "Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts. This man is in effect a voyeur by nature; he is also reporter, tinkerer, and spy."
Although his work has received many awards, been enshrined in the best museums, and been exhibited on several continents, Evans's total corpus is only now being fully examined. This important book revises our appreciation of Evans by presenting previously unknown material in an accessible context. Essays by Maria Morris Hambourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Doug Eklund, and Mia Fineman offer novel insights into the sources and legacy of Evans's work. The result is a superb exploration of what was achieved by one of our finest, mostly deeply American artists.
In 1926 Walker Evans dropped out of Williams College and arrived in Paris to launch his career as a writer. Though his life there revolved around the renowned Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a mixture of introversion and disdain for American culture kept him at a remove from the now famous expatriate circle of the era, the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, the Murphys, and Joyce among them. He spent most of his time abroad alone and picked up his camera from time to time to document his immediate world, making images of his boarding room and his own shadow against a wall. When he returned to the States, Evans began to dedicate more time to his hobby, and by the end of his long career had established himself as one of the most important modernist photographers. Walker Evans, the catalog to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's retrospective of Evans's work (exhibiting February to May 2000, then moving on to other venues), is proof that his choice to abandon writing for photography left the cultural world richer. It is also arguably the best book available on the photographer and his images.
The Metropolitan possesses the bulk of Evans's archive of prints, negatives, diaries, working notes, letters, and other writings. In the process of planning the show, its curators discovered hundreds of previously unknown negatives stored at the Library of Congress. From this vast source, they constructed the show and its companion book. The catalog's introductory essays by such writers as Maria Morris Hambourg, head of photography for the Met, sketch the biographical details of Evans's life and explore works like his New York subway portraits in depth. But the real treat is to browse the nearly 200 plates, each reproduced from vintage prints in the museum's archive and private collections. Evans's early work focused on New York City--the proverbial bright lights of Broadway, the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island, the clutter of workers and shoppers and cars and advertisements in its streets. Soon he fanned out, photographing main drags and battered buildings in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. He also explored the people of Havana, Cuba, and the rural American South in some of his best-known work. By the mid-1970s, Evans was working in color, but his imagery remained consistent: signs, architecture, and seemingly inconsequential details like a Peg-Board full of kitchen utensils dominate. Arriving at the close of this book, readers can only thank the fates that Evans gave up his ambitions as a writer to devote himself wholly to his "left-handed hobby" of photography. --Jordana Moskowitz
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