What do you get when you combine a wealth of watermelons, classic black + white Americana, and Walker Evans’ incredible eye? This pitch-perfect rendition of a summer scene. Pull over to Roadside stand near Birmingham, Alabama, and collect a piece of history.
We like to picture Walker Evans cruising down the road in the high heat of an Alabama summer, stopping at this Roadside stand near Birmingham, Alabama, tempted by the prospect of biting into a juicy, cool slice of watermelon. This irresistible image was one of many Evans created in the summer of 1936 while traveling with writer James Agee. The photographs and writing they produced during this time, initially intended for Fortune Magazine, were published a few years later as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Revolutionary for its stark portrayal of the lives of sharecroppers during the Great Depression, the book followed a style of reporting that worked parallel to the non-traditional photojournalism of the Farm Security Administration.
Walker Evans worked for the FSA from 1935 to 1937, one of many photographers tasked with creating a photographic survey of America during the Great Depression. During his 18-month tenure, he created an iconic portfolio consisting mainly of posed portraits of sharecroppers. These set ups were also seen in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. At a time when information was neither easily nor quickly disseminated, even a posed portrait conveyed knowledge that would otherwise have been inaccessible to outsiders.
These posed images would not likely be accepted as photojournalism in this day and age, which may be all the better for the modern art collector. We are free to view Roadside stand near Birmingham, Alabama through a purely artistic lens. We can enjoy the humor of the boys showing off their melon-lifting skills for the photographer. We can take in the variety of striking, handpainted typefaces, the predecessors of bright lights and neon signs. And of course, we can glimpse an America of ages past: then reported, now romanticized. It’s your turn to stop by Walker Evans’ Roadside stand near Birmingham, Alabama!
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200