Collage of Walker Evans' photographs of depression era subway riders
last month was the anniversary of walker evans birth. evans' birthday inspired me to seek out some books about him and his work from the local library. one book that I checked out was many are called - the book was composed of photographs walker surreptitiously shot from 1938 to 1941 of people riding the nyc subway. walker used a concealed camera to take portraits of strangers riding the subway; each picture is incredible as each is a microcosm of history, biography, and personality.walker's work in the subway inspired me to play around and take some candid pictures of some of my fellow subway riders. although my camera wasn't concealed, I did manage to surreptitiously snap a number of photographs of my fellow subway passengers. just as evans' photographs do for the late 30s/early 40s, perhaps, these photos capture life circa 2009. for my flickr slide show (21 pics) of these snaps go HERE. if you check them out - please let me know what you think - there are a couple, like the one above, that I think really like, I'd love to learn which is your fave.ella fitzgerald with duke ellington and his orchestra performing the jazz standard take the 'a' train. of all the subways lines in nyc, the 'a' train has to be is my favorite (if for no other reason than it's the line I'm most familiar with) - on the 'a' train you can travel from north of washington heights, through harlem, all the way through the rest of manhattan, under the brooklyn bridge and across brooklyn to ozone park or past jfk airport to rockaway beach. and to think you can go all that way for a mere 2 bucks 50 cents! what a deal!!
Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.
With the camera, it's all or nothing. You either get what you're after at once, or what you do has to be worthless. I don't think the essence of photography has the hand in it so much. The essence is done very quietly with a flash of the mind, and with a machine. I think too that photography is editing, editing after the taking. After knowing what to take, you have to do the editing.
Walker Evans (3 november 1903 - 1975) photographer
today is the birthday of walker evans, one of my photographic superheros. walker got his start as a photographer for the farm security administration, documenting the effects of the great depression. when I think of it, quite a few of the photographers that I admire most were fsa photographers - including dorothea lange and gordon parks. geez, I was definitely born at the wrong time. although I'm sure it was quite difficult to get such a gig.I love work which captures our social world - when I hit the library I need to see if they have a copy of walker's many are called, a book which is a compilation of one of walker's early depression era projects. during a three year period beginning in the late 1930s walker snapped photos of people riding the nyc subway using a hidden camera. fascinating.well, no more time, today is ms t day and we are off to the library but first have to vote. it is election day and although it's an off year there are a few local issue to tend to.photo: angler bill, I met bill the other day when I was taking a hike, I was drawn to the sight of this guy sitting on a chair in the river fishing. of course I walked over to him and asked him if I could take his picture. as I was taking his photograph I learned a great deal about his life. people are so interesting. I'm always so grateful when folks say yes when I ask to take their picture. of course like walker, often I'm kind of sneaky and sometimes I snap a picture without asking permission. rocky river reservation, cleveland october 2009
Received Honorable Mention for the 2005 Golden Light Award
Between 1936 and 1941 Walker Evans and James Agee collaborated on one of the most provocative books in American literature, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). While at work on this book, the two also conceived another less well-known but equally important book project entitled Many Are Called. This three-year photographic study of subway passengers made with a hidden camera was first published in 1966, with an introduction written by Agee in 1940. Long out of print, Many Are Called is now being reissued with a new foreword and afterword and with exquisitely reproduced images from newly prepared digital scans. Many Are Called came to fruition at a slow pace. In 1938, Walker Evans began surreptitiously photographing people on the New York City subway. With his camera hidden in his coat—the lens peeking through a buttonhole—he captured the faces of riders hurtling through the dark tunnels, wrapped in their own private thoughts. By 1940-41, Evans had made over six hundred photographs and had begun to edit the series. The book remained unpublished until 1966 when The Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition of Evans’s subway portraits. This beautiful new edition—published in the centenary year of the NYC subway—is an essential book for all admirers of Evans’s unparalleled photographs, Agee’s elegant prose, and the great City of New York.
Luc Sante, author of Low Life, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts, is Visiting Professor of Writing and the History of Photography at Bard College; Jeff L. Rosenheim, Associate Curator, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the editor of Unclassified: A Walker Evans Anthology and Walker Evans: Polaroids and was the main contributor to the Metropolitan’s exhibition catalogue Walker Evans (2000).
“[New York City subway riders] are members of every race and nation of the earth. They are of all ages, of all temperaments, of all classes, of almost every imaginable occupation. . . . Each, also, is an individual existence, as matchless as a thumbprint or a snowflake.” —James Agee, from the introduction