When Walker Evans entered the circle of Muriel Draper in 1931, a new set of problems arose.
Walker Evans entree into the sophisticated world of the Draper salon brought with it certain hazards. He seems to have made a hit with a number of homosexual and bisexual men who regularly frequented Muriel’s evenings. Kirsten, in his diaries, routinely recorded the episodes he witnessed and those in which Muriel reported on the general assault against Evans’s masculine virtue.
There was a case of an aspiring young member of the American diplomatic corps, an intimate of Jean Cocteau’s, who, high on drugs, took Walker out for dinner “and horrified him by acting camp and taking dope which he got in Harlem and which he decided was half talcum-powder after all. He would scream at the rails of the elevated and tell them to stop. He made a pass at Walker and was generally difficult.”
On a different occasion another of Muriel’s young blades had been so attracted to Evans that when he finally took the plunge of asking him for lunch, he did it such a “transparently flirtatious and ass-humping” manner that he was no longer attracted. Muriel, bemused, commented on “the subtle and powerful influence that Walker Evans exerted on all of us, mainly the mysterious quality that he projected— did he know his power or not?”
Beyond the hints provided by James Mellow’s biographical retelling, it seems that there was a certain power that Evans gained through mystery— through careful control of context and presentation.
Evans effectively decontextualized the depression in America
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, cityscapes, a short story he wrote called Brooms, his habit of making lists, cityscapes and lists revisited, Walker Evans at De Luze Cottage, and just today, another short love story.