Biography/Chronology of Walker Evans
1903 Born in ST. Louis, Missouri.
His parents are well-off, puritanical; his father is an
advertising director. He spends his youth in Toledo,
Chicago, and New York City.
1922 Graduates from the Phillips Academy, Andover,
Studies literature at Williams College (one year), then takes
various jobs in New York City.
1926 Lives in Paris with the intention of becoming a
writer; attends literature lectures at the Sorbonne.
1927 Returns to New York. Clerk for a stockbroker firm in
Wall Street (until 1929).
1928 First photographs with a small hand-held, roll-film
1929 Begins friendship with Lincoln Kirstein, then still a
student at Harvard University but already a key
figure in the American cultural scene.
1930 First publication of three photographs (Brooklyn
Bridge) in the poetry book The Bridge by Hart
First photographs of nineteenth century American houses;
development of the descriptive style that influences his
He sees photographs by Eugene Atget who has a lasting
influence on him. Begins work with different cameras up
to 6 l/2 x 8 1/ 2 inches, initially with glass-plate negatives.
1931 Photo series of Victorian houses in the Boston
vicinity; Lincoln Kirstein initiated the project and
Shared studio in Greenwich Village with other artists,
including the painter and later FSA photographer Ben
Shahn (through 1932).
1933 Photographic expedition to Havana during the
political unrest in Cuba with the commission to
provide illustrations for Carleton Beals's book The
Crime of Cuba. Encounter with Ernest Hemingway.
Comes to prefer use of an 8 x 10 view camera; continues to
work with a 35mm camera.
1935 Photographic expedition to the Southern states.
Photographs architecture from the antebellum
period, especially plantation houses.
First cooperation with The Museum of Modern Art, New
York: photographic documentation for the exhibition
"African Negro Art"; select photographs are sent out on
1935 In June and July first fixed-term photographic
campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA)
to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October
continuing photographic work for the RA, the later
Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in
the Southern states.
1936 July/August: three-week stay with sharecropper
families in Hale County, Alabama, together with
James Agee. The commission is from Fortune for a
text-photo article on sharecroppers. Agee had
requested Evans as photographer. Evans receives a
temporary leave from his FSA job under the
condition that the photographs become government
property. The article (lost) does not meet the
magazine's expectations and is rejected. The
expanded book version does not appear until:
1941: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
1937 September: end of his contract with the FSA. From
now on activity as independent photographer,
partially, up to the summer of 1938, for the FSA.
1938 "Walker Evans: American Photographs," exhibition
at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the first
exhibition in this museum devoted to the work of a
single photographer. Catalog with an essay by
First photographs in the New York subway with a camera
hidden in his coat.
1940 Ever more seldom use of a view camera; in its place a
2 1/4 twin-lens reflex camera and a 35mm camera.
1941 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is published by
Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston after a long search for
a publisher. The book meets with a reserved
response since the sharecropper problem has been
replaced by wartime themes.
1943 Articles for Time magazine (through 1944).
1945 Continuous photo and text contributions to Fortune to
1948 Exhibition (retrospective) at the Art Institute of
1950 Photo series of the American industrial landscape
seen as though from the window of a
1955 Death of his friend James Agee.
1960 New edition of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men with
expanded section of photographs. The book
experiences a late success in the atmosphere of the
1960 protest movements and the beginning of a cult
around James Agee. Through this edition a new
generation also discovers Evans's photographs.
Walker Evans: American Photographs, Exhibition
of a selection of the photographs from the 1938
retrospective in The Museum of Modern Art, New
York, on the occasion of the new edition of the
1965 Professor of photography on the Faculty for Graphic
Design at the Yale School of Art and Architecture.
1966 Many are Called. Publication in book form of his
1971 Walker Evans, exhibition at The Museum of
Modern Art, New York. Catalog with an essay by
1975 April 10: Evans dies in New Haven, Connecticut.
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