part one: Introduction

(click on image for Evans' background)
Walker Evans in New York City, 1937.

The objective of this project is to show how Walker Evans' photographs taken in the 1930's, portraying a realistic view of the poverty-stricken rural south, revolutionized the standards of documentary photography.

By looking at Evans' photographs I will examine the idealogical implications, the aesthetic choices, and the technical limitations that Evans used to produce such powerful images. It is necessary, of course, to look at the context within which Evans was working--specifically that of the Farm Security Administration. Also, I will explain the concept of photography as a research method and an artform, while addressing the problem of "objective vs. subjective," inherent in the field of photography. It is necessary as well, to compare Evans' work with that of other photographers from the same period, who had the same assingment as Evans. Lastly, the images Evans made for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men--which were included in the FSA file of photographs--serve as the culmination of Evans' talents, as well the utmost realistic portrayal of the conditions that the American tenant-farmer was subject to in the post-Depression 1930's.

Evans made his images for a higher purpose than just the FSA. By escaping the political propaganda nature of working for the government, Evans successfully created a sense of realism. His ability to create images that lack subjectivity, and lack the presence of an author, furthered the claim of many that photography was an objective process. However, the camera is merely a tool, like a pen or a paintbrush, and it too, expresses the intentions of its possessor. This being said, Evans' talent was his ability to make images that speak for themselves. Evans photgraphs seem to exist as historical moments in time, hard-edged facts--not interpretations; thus the viewer responds to the image itself--to the contents within it--not to the photographer's construction of it.

Evans stated in an unpublished note written in 1961 for a reissue
 of American Photographs:

The objective picture of America in the 1930's made by Evans was neither
 journalistic or political in technique and intention.  It was reflective
 rather than tendentious and, in a certain way, disinterested.

In this project, I will try to explain how Evans did it.  

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