Walker Evans, Pt. 8

Reaching Toward Critical Mass

Walker Evans, Billboard in the Bronx, 1929-30

Jonathon’s gesture towards an Walker Evans photograph reminded me about something I should have been doing. Last month, I started a sort of survey of the work of Walker Evans, but I stopped around 1930— the point where most critics begin.

I was leading toward something. But once again, before I get there, I’ve got to pause for a moment to share a few more of those 1929-30 gems, which most people probably have not seen.

Early focus on the nature of hypertext pointed at the “death of the author” somewhat tediously. I think that TV’s latest motion toward the role of pseudonyms in the 18th century is a more fruitful (and perhaps not as cliché as he thinks) way to think about what is going on regarding the web. Where Evans was going involved marching in lockstep with the early modernists into anonymity. But prior to 1930, he was still working in a rather assertive and playful mode, dancing on the edge of sentimental celebration before falling off the other side into something bright, shiny, and hard.

So, I suppose I’ll dive back in again with a bit of a recap, and some new images. What keeps drawing me back to these photographs is their humor. I never seem to tire of looking at them. Though sometimes Evans is easily placed into his milieu, often, he dances precariously just beyond the edge of the “high seriousness” of modernity.

Eventually, Evans left the bright lights and big city.

Walker Evans, Broadway, 1930Walker Evans, Chrysler Building construction, 1929Walker Evans, Traffic, New York City, 1929

More of my Walker Evans wandering, in case you’ve missed it, includes: An introduction, Evans’ Placard for a Museum Wall, Evan’s photographs for Hart Crane’s The Bridge, his early European snapshots, photographs of Coney Island, his affinity with Atget, more cityscapes, a short story he wrote called Brooms, and where I left off, Evan’s lists.

It seems fitting to include another list, just for Bloomsday.


fucking (including + chiefly composed of all leadup and parody)
working when I do not hate it and every sensation following work
city streets
auto driving
the cleaner degrees of weltsmerz and God
Buster Keaton
S.J. Perleman
beautiful bellies
the life and conduct of Joyce
New Orleans
8 extensions of Swift, Grosz and Celine
the earth from the air
James Harold Flye

(what James Agee likes, in Evans’ hand, NY 12-26-37)

Filling Station, 1929-33