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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WALKER EVANS -- 1930s RURAL PHOTOGRAPHER


Downie Bros.Circus ads on rural outbuilding

Lynchburg (state?)

Walker Evans, photographer
1936 -- Library of Congress


Early photographers have always captured my imagination --from the early tin types to mid-twentieth century. This time-frame was a trans-formative period based on wars and industrial growth. Much of what can be imagined from this period is found through the eyes of photographers. I like amateur photographers as well as the professionals. However, a favorite of mine from this era was a professional photographer that I label a cultural photographer  -- his name was Walker Evans. 
Evans, found creative passion in the humbler side of life -- what I call the reality of  life. He had a long career in photography but  his photos from the 1930s are the ones that I have always admired. These were main streets, small towns and people of our rural areas. Primarily these photographs were taken in southern states while he worked for the Resettlement Administration (RA) and then the Farm Security Administration (FSA) both Great Depression federal programs. 


SHOE SHINE STAND, SOUTHEASTERN U.S.
WALKER EVANS PHOTOGRAPHER 1936
Library of Congress

These early photos convince us that we, as a country, have changed, losing our former creative community  spirit. . But I feel there is a movement afoot that might result in bringing back some of our former significant values to small towns  and the rural coutryside. 

Take a look at these early photo icons of main street commerce. Their liquid ambiance feels welcoming and real.   


WATERFRONT IN NEW ORLEANS
FRENCH MARKET SIDEWALK SCENE, LOUISIANA
WALKER EVANS PHOTOGRAPHER -- 1935
Library of Congress

The French Market scene appears as a thoroughfare of legs, wheels, signs, and trade. Regulations seem unknown as vehicles park ever which way, signs protruding from on high and on the sidewalk. It almost feels like it's a fair.
LINCOLN MARKET, WINSTON SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
WALKER EVANS -- 1935
Library of Congress

Aren't we glad that Evans captured this creative way of advertising -- using the store's exterior wall -- of course. 
SIDEWALK SCENE IN SELMA ALABAMA
WALKER EVANS -- 1935
Library of Congress

Alabama and the camaraderie of friends -- always present in the 1930s rural environment.
RURAL LOUISIANA
WALKER EVANS --  PHOTOGRAPHER -- 1936
Library of Congress

Walker's subjects were often of vernacular architecture along with other cultural materials. His photos  have a "stand alone" quality. They really can be presented with few accompanying words. 


RESOURCES:


Introduction to "Walker Evans," Museum of Modern Art Exhibition, 1971 


Walker Evans,  by Maria Morris Hanbourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Douglas Eklund, Mia Fineman


Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Walker Evans (photographer) and James Agee


Library of Congress, Washington D. C.







18 comments:

  1. Great piece, Barbara. I Love these photographers and Evans was one of the best. Your sentence, "Their liquid ambience feels welcoming and real," is beautiful, as is the accompanying photograph. You captured it perfectly with those words.

    Thank you for creating such a wonderful post for my morning reading.

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  2. Teresa -- I can tell you are an aficionado of photography. Your posts are wonderful to read on your blog "Teresa Evangeline." Thanks for the kind comments -- barbara

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  3. Wonderful how snarling lions and a simple work boot needing a shine take on the same weight of significance in thee photos. Thanks for letting us see them.

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  4. June -- The small town's flowing diversity speaks to me. Evans seems to be right on when he captures these photos. Thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

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  5. I;m afraid our community spirit died with the Civil War. It hung on a while longer in some smaller communities in the South and West but with a Starbuck in every hamlet, it has mostly disappeared I fear. Poignant photos of a long ago world. Dianne

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  6. Oh, what wonderful images! Thanks, Barbara!

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  7. Diane -- I'm sure around Washington D.C, that is the case. Walker sure had a great eye for capturing these photos -- what a history he memorialized. -- barbara

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  8. Vicki -- thanks for the comment. -- barbara

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  9. I am a great fan of old photographs. The talent of those people with their equipment is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs.

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  10. NCmountainwoman -- I have often thought about old photographs -- what if didn't have any? How could we remember our life as a child or that of our parents, grandparents etc. Images give us a view of what type of culture our ancestors lived in. The camera was and still is a great technology. Thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

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  11. Barbara,
    His photography is new to me. As one who takes pictures everyday it brings a new perspective on capturing ones era. Taking mostly wildlife photos I did take one of an eagle this week and in the background was Kentucky Dam. I thought this portrays the natural setting of the eagle in today's time period. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. What a beautiful old basket in your header! I've read through this post several times. I've so enjoyed those period black & white photos of times past. Can't wait to see what's next on your blog; it's one of my favorites! Hugs!

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  13. I think your eagle photos are unbelievable. I think all photos that we have taken or are still taking today are invaluable to answering the question of who we are as a people. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  14. Christine -- What a lovely comment -- thank you so much. Images do enlarge our worldview both of the past and the now. Your jellyfish on the sand was wonderful -- barbara

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  15. LOVE looking back at his work... inspiring stuff.

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  16. Birdman -- his cultural photos are certainly inspiring -- thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  17. True story. (The lions reminded me of it.) In my city in the early 50's there was a lion that was kept as a tourist attraction. One day it escaped and mauled a young girl to death. I know the lady that was with her at the time. She now deals with severe depression and anxiety. I am sure they never thought back then that a small child could be traumatized by such an event. Tragic.

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  18. Birdie -- What a tragic story.I think lions are not meant to be kept as performers or in zoos -- I think they become psychologically abnormal. Its not the lions fault, its the owners that keep them in an unnatural state. Let them roam wild I say. -- birdie

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