Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: Walker Evans Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

23 July 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 145th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Walker Evans In His Own Words.

Produced by, a purveyor of free online courses, this four-and-a-half minute survey of Walker Evans explains the photographer's work in his own words. Can't beat that.

It begins with the Depression, during which Walker worked for the Resettlement Administration, which assisted the rural poor and agricultural workers. Photographers working for the Administration documented living and working conditions.

'I like saying what's what.'

Evans explains that the Depression allowed photographers who didn't want to get "sucked in to commercial work" to make a living. There wasn't any commercial work to do anyway, he points out.

With no concept of what the government agency expected, he photographed what caught his eye, he says, inadvertently creating a record he wasn't thinking of making.

In the summer of 1936, Evans took a break from that job to work with the writes James Agee who was writing an article for Fortune magazine about white southern sharecroppers hard hit by the Depression.

"There was a lot of talk around town about us," Evans recalls of their trips to Alabama and Mississippi, "about what we were doing. The land owners and the police were watching us all the time."

His work may look like social protest, he says, but he wasn't trying to improve the world. "I like saying what's what," he explains.

Fortune didn't publish the article but the work was published in book form as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, marking a milestone in American photojournalism.

Evans documented American life for 50 years. He worked for Fortune for 20 of them, leaving to become a professor at Yale.

At the end of this clip, he confesses he finds the task of photography a particularly difficult one.

"I believe that the achievement of a work that is evocative and mysterious and at the same time realistic is a great one and a rare one and perhaps sometimes almost an accident," he sums it up.

That's certainly saying what's what.

BackBack to Photo Corners