Walker Evans: Capturing the Essence of American Life

Walker Evans, a well-known American photographer, transformed photography in the 20th century by capturing the spirit of working-class America with unwavering candour.

Evans returned to New York in 1927 with the goal of becoming a writer. But it was also at this time that he started experimenting with photography, which ultimately inspired him to incorporate descriptive writing and narrative structure from literature into his photographic creations.

Evans’s early photography work, which focused on formalism and dynamic graphic forms, was influenced by European modernism. But as he evolved as an artist, he drew inspiration from American vernacular phrases to create a distinctive style marked by a more subdued version of realism.

In the summer of 1936, Evans worked with author James Agee on a Fortune magazine-commissioned project to photograph poor sharecropping families in Alabama. The effort eventually produced the ground-breaking book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” in 1941, despite Fortune’s decision not to publish the material.

The first ten years of Evans’s photography career were retrospectived in 1938 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In the field of photographic monographs, the companion book, “American Photographs,” is still considered a classic.

Evans started a project in 1938 and 1942 to try and capture the essence of New York City underground passengers. He took pictures of people buried in thought, reading, or engaged in deep conversation while wearing a covert camera.

Walker Evans has made incalculable contributions to the field of photography. Evans’s pictures have influenced and shaped American memory going forward.