In the years of the Great American Depression of 1935-36, the Missouri-born photographer, Walker Evans (1903-1975), embarked on a photographic project that would produce some of the most iconic images in the history of photography. Evans was employed as an ‘Information Specialist’ in President Franklin D Roosevelt’s Resettlement (later Farm Security) Administration. He was commissioned alongside other eminent photographers of the time (Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein) to record the work of the FSA’s rehabilitation programme, as well as to document the daily lives of farmers and flood victims.
He travelled to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina photographing churches, graveyards, busy streets, shops, cafes, signs and billboards as well as making more intimate portraits of family life. He also recorded interiors and exteriors of sharecroppers’ homes, group portraits and the famous close-up portraits of the Burroughs family. These disquieting, provocative images are seen by many as the culmination of Evans’ photographic career, capturing the expressions of the weak and vulnerable and showing the fragility of their existence. His work bears witness to the realities faced by Depression-era communities in the Deep South.
This exhibition, selected by Jeff L. Rosenheim, associate curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, brings together 50 black and white prints that are some of the most important images of this period. Through his writing and photographs as well as the writings of others, we are able to witness the tragedy of the Great Depression in the Southern States of America.
An exhibition book will be displayed alongside his photographs, featuring examples of his own writing, interview excerpts and articles written by James Agee and Lincoln Kirstein.
These photographs are archival prints duplicated from the Farm Security Administration Collection in the Library of Congress, Washington.
Top image: Walker Evans, Roadside Stand, Vicinity Birmingham, Alabama, 1936. Gelatin silver print from negative in the collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, [LC-USF342-8253A]
Middle image: Walker Evans, Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936. Gelatin silver print from negative in the collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, [LC-USF342-8139A]
Bottom image: Walker Evans, Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936. Gelatin silver print from negative in the collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, [LC-USF342-8147A]