part six: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

What is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men?

Evans photographs begin the book. There are over 50 images--mostly one picture to a page. There are no quotations, or captions--just images of the three tenant families, and their houses, possessions, etc... James Curtis writes: "Evans believed his photographs were self-explanatory; the presence of words implied that the image was somehow deficient." Keeping the images separate from Agee's text brought more recognition to the images themselves, and it was a total break from the trends of photo-journalism, which used images to illustrate text.

The images are quintessential of Evans' "documentary style"; Evans' 
 dis-interested approach to these families resulted in portraying
 them with dignity and strength, although they lived in complete
 poverty.  He sought to show the beauty of order and respectability
 within such an impoverished condition.  Thus, many of the photographs
 are posed portraits, often made with the 8x10 view camera.  You will
 notice, as well, as was pointed out before in 
part four: Evans' Images, Evans' use of objects, as well as interior and 
 exterior(architectural) shots, which were all components of his strategy
 to build a comprehensive documentary work. 
 at times Evans used his Leica(35mm),a small format camera, he did
 not take "snapshots" of daily activites; he despised 
that journalistic approach.   Evans kept
 his images, as usual, in sharp, hard-focus, and also varied his
 focal length--sometimes up close, other times, wide-angle. 
 of the book referred to the "naked realism which is the truth
 as Walker Evans' camera eye sees it."  
The effect is one of confrontation with the reader--not with Evans,
 but with the tenant-farming families themselves.  In this regard Evans became 
 the visual translator of these people to the rest of the alienated 
 American public.  In so doing, and in conjunction with his work for
 the FSA, Evans revolutionized the concept of documentary photography.
 That is, he artfully removed himself from the equation.  His objective style
 brought the viewer into confrontation with the subject, with no
 hint of subjective authoritarian influence.  These images are 
 the best example of that fact, and accordingly were the hallmark
 images for which Evans became known.
I hope you will spend time looking at these images. Try not to flip through them quickly. Take a minute and digest them. I have not included all of them,(go buy the book, if you want) but most are here:Evans' Photographs for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men


Go Back to Other Photographers of the FSAOR Return to Table of Contents