Term Paper: Walker Evans the Emergence

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[. . .] S. Resettlement Administration and during the Depression, recorded the social conditions. It is during this second period, from 1931 to 1935, that Evans mastered his skills and developed a full "palette " in a salon where when one goes into it gives feeling of as if entering into a shaft of light (Cosmo Polis, 2000).

At the salon are many of Evans's most attractive pictures, starting with the architectural wonder of Maine Pump, with its counterpoint of Gothic lines. A cupolaed wooden awning with a gingerbread, scalloped frieze shelters the slender black pump and its wooden sluice; while some grey cupola peaks in a spindle; and the canopy is bracketed to a pointed archway over one of two adjacent doors of the home. There could be none but Walker Evans who could discover such rhythms of light and shadow (Cosmo Polis, 2000).

However, he was later hired by Roy Stryker of the Farm Security Administration hired Evans. Here he took part at various times in the Farm Security Administration's photographic survey of rural America during the next four years, and reported mainly on southern states. Simultaneously, for his own interests he photographed pre-Civil War architecture too (Cosmo Polis, 2000).

In 1936 during summer times, Evans in order to work on a Fortune magazine project with the writer James Agee took a leave of absence from the FSA. He and his team lived with Alabama sharecropper families for nearly two months but Fortune Magazine rejected their work. However, he published his work as a book, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, in 1941" (Jonathan, 2002).

This book turned out to be a classic. However, that was the time when he also accepted a professorship at Yale University and taught students Graphic Design from 1965 until his death in New Haven 10 years later. He advised his students "to have a cultivated life and an education; they'd make better photographs (Jonathan, 2002)."

He regarded this as especially relevant to "the psychology of camera work," and argued "a man who has faith, intelligence, and cultivation will show that in his work. Passion he does not mention, because it cannot be acquired or reliably controlled. Without it there is no enduring art." Thus, the photographs Evans took for the FSA and this volume represents some of his most significant and influential work (Jonathan, 2002).

Evans started to take candid shots of subway riders as well as street people in 1938. In this work he relinquished control of framing and lighting so as to get the most pure record of the moment. From 1943 till 1945 he was became a staff writer for Time (Jonathan, 2002). While, rejoined as a staff writer and the sole staff photographer at Fortune from 1945 and worked there for the next twenty years in these roles as well as an independent associate editor. The Fortune published many of his photo-essays along with his own texts (Jonathan, 2002).

He also became an influence for Robert Frank and Helen Levitt who later took cues from the "Subway Photographs," and "Labor Anonymous." But since Evans was the photo editor at Fortune he lost his passion for the black-and-white photograph and turned to photographing tin snips, tugs, and crate openers that were suspended in space, in the manner of a bored Edward Weston (Jonathan, 2002).

He also shot color stories such as "The Wreckers," that illustrated lyrically the "loving destruction of a building," and "Along the Right of Way," which depicted the view of landscapes glimpsed through a train window (Jonathan, 2002).

Walker Evans as an Individual

From his boyhood, he had been a keen collector of photographs, which have been exhibited at the gallery, and includes an comical selection of his era postcards and signs, along with forty snapshots the old man took with a polaroid of friends, road signs, and kitchen utensils, during 1970s, when he was very sick to manage a camera (Kramer, 2000).

He was a man of small stature, with graceful movements who by the age of thirty-three, was considered as one of the most well-known photographers in the world. His love life was continued to be, as baroque in style as James Agee's Elizabethan prose. He was in love with the artist Jane Ninas and was dating her although she was married. He got married twice and divorced twice and was considered by all means a difficult husband but a mercurial friend (Kramer, 2000).

Like many other great artist, Evans was also an obsessed artist for his work, who preferred it to human interaction and demanding control. He had the ironic expressions, with darkness and bad absorption of a cynic, just like a person who without alcohol suffered the continuous feelings of worries. He and his friend Agee were partners in liquor that killed Agee in 1955 and ruined Evans's health and concentration very soon afterwards (James).

He was also groovy, an aesthete from the crown of his barbered hair to the cap toes of his Peal benchmade shoes. A friend of his once told that Walker was once impulse on taking a ship to England, first class, for a weekend in order to buy some shoes. However, he had more shoes in his closet than might be found in many a square mile of Hale County, Alabama (James).

His view on Politics

About his perspective on politics was:

The problem is one of staying out of Left politics and still avoiding Establishment patterns. I would not politicize my mind or work.... The apostles can't have me.

Of the more sentimental Agee (James)."

He had contempt the socialists, the Communists and New Deal liberals alike; while condemned Quakers, trade unionists, and all others. His feeling for the working class was not the sparkle that kindled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men but rather it was inborn human sympathy. And though he was not very religious, yet he stood in respect of Agee's Christianity that he called (James):

naked, root emotion.... All you saw of it was an ingrained courtesy, an uncourtly courtesy that emanated from him towards everyone.... After a while, in a round-about way, you discovered that, to him, human beings were at least possibly immortal and literally sacred souls (James)."

So it was this "root emotion," and this consideration, which Evans got from Agee just like a fever since as recalled by Evans, Agee had the power not only to make strangers like him, but also love him. This passion affected Evans, for the time it took to do the work in Alabama (James).

His contribution to photography became slender after 1936. However, it is not easy to say as to why there was such a falling off after the fireworks of the first decade. But some clues to this fall can be found in the fourth, U-shaped gallery at the Metropolitan. For example, the dark series Subway Passengers, New York (1938-41) taken by Evans with a hidden thirty-five millimeter Contax is inquisitive, with close shots of generally middle-class passengers day-dreaming, all awfully lonely, reading newspapers, sleeping, and never had eye contact with the lurking photographer, or hardly with each other. This contact sheet exhibited revealed that Evans has always been a "master of the edge" who collected and re-formatted his prints so skillfully, that he started to gather his human subjects away from their surroundings and each other that slowly de-contextualize them (Anna, 2000).

Furthermore, when he shot the series of portraits "Labor Anonymous" for Fortune by 1946, he was completely isolated these male pedestrians, and regulated them, their bored expressions, even their clothing so they may appear like robots, soldiers on march in lock-step. Perhaps this portrait is an effective review of Stalinism and is in sympathy with the misery of French existentialists. But "Labor Anonymous" as pure photography is a lethargic shadow of what Evans had done a decade earlier (Anna, 2000).

Ranking artists is a parlor game, useful mostly for publicists. Though there have been many significant American photographers, the canon of great artists in black-and-white is relatively small, owing to the late invention of the medium and its various constraints -- "negative size, monochromaticism, the tyranny of "representation (Anna, 2000)."

Display of Walker Evan's Stages of Career & his Photographs

The stages of Evans's career are as obviously distinguished and logical as the acts in any French play. The exhibition at the Metropolitan, in four medium-sized galleries, has done a marvelous job of representing his progress of work (Anna, 2000). The photographs have been well lighted and spaced, in chronological order that does not have unnecessary commentary. The selections of pictures are outstanding and most of his great pictures are in the form of vintage prints (Anna, 2000).

The first room contains the ancient European and Manhattan pictures along with several additional signage studies. There is also Torn Movie Poster in which the painted actress's face is terribly flawed by a vertical tear in the paper; and the Truck and Sign, which is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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