Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Walker Evans: Historical Photographer

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was an American photographer who wanted to capture aspects of what makes America American. He studied literature and had a passion for writing, however photography became a hobby and a new way to express himself. Evans began working as an advertisement photographer to earn some money. He soon moved on to a more documentary style photography. The photographs he took were a real America. He did not try and show the clean, upper class parts. Nor did he photograph only the beautiful nature. He captured what he saw around him. Evans was probably best known for his documentation of the Great Depression. Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Metropolitan Museum, said, "Walker Evan's compelling images of Americans and American life convey masterfully the poetic resonance of the ordinary as transformed by a personal artistic vision. With keen intellect, astounding visual acuity, and superb technical skill, he captured for us the very text and texture of 20th-century America."

Subway Passenger, New York. 1938

This is similar to my project of photographing everyday things and transforming them. Montebello described Evan's photographs well and I would like my art to bring about similar feelings. He mentioned three things that Evans had which helped him to achieve these images:

1. Keen intellect. He had a will to learn and discover in terms of the camera and the subject.

2. Astounding visual acuity. Oh gosh...I don't even know what that means, much less have it. Turns out it is a sharpness or precision. He pursued perfection.

3. Superb technical skills. I'm working on it..

I think you have to have the keen intellect before the skills. You have to be willing to explore, learn, fail, and discover before you can really achieve successful art.

I'll leave you with another one of his images. This one is called Shop Front, New Orleans. 1935.

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