General Store Interior, Moundville, Alabama
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From mid 1935 to early 1937, Walker Evans worked for the historical unit of the Farm Security Administration to create a photographic survey of rural America during the Great Depression. Sent to Hale County, Alabama with James Agee in the summer of 1936, the duo detailed their stay with three impoverished white tenant families in text an photographs which were later published in the revolutionary book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
General Store Interior, Moundville, Alabama is fixed in time by the calendar that dominates the upper right of the frame. July 1936 is certainly a very distant past as we look at this image today, but there's a certain Things Organized Neatly contemporary appeal to the efficiently (not to mention abundantly) packed shelves of this General Store. Many a Brooklyn outpost these days seeks to recreate this sort of wholesome, Made-in-the-USA vibe and judging by the commentary spotted about this image across the interwebs, there are plenty of people who'd love to get their hands on some of the items on display.
It's easy to understand why as you hone in on the details. Classic kerosene lamps displayed with military precision. The O.K.-brand soap boxes presage the pop-art cool of the Brillo stacks which made Warhol a superstar several decades later. Everywhere the eye turns there's deftly executed typography that still has evidence of a human touch intact. Linger longer, and you'll notice disorder and decay encroaching upon this virtuous tableau. One flour bag leans askew. Just to the left, papers erupt from a drawer and cascade diagonally across the floor. The tower of cups are anything but straight. There's a story to be told in this photo about Moundville, Alabama; thanks to the deft talents of Evans, it unfolds with nary a word spoken.
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Legendary American photgrapher Walker Evans (1903-1975) is best known for his captivating large format images of the American vernacular. His iconic images entered the public's collective consciousness with appearances in magazines, books, and museums around the world since the 1930s. He has inspired generations of photographers and artists, changing the field with his narratives of American life. In 1938, MOMA exhibited the first decade of his photographs in his first retrospective American Photographs.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Walker Evans moved to New York City as a young man to pursue writing. He studied writing at Williams College for a year, and later the Sorbonne, picking up photography in 1928. The interplay between language and image were central to his work. As a small child and throughout his life, Evans collected picture postcards. A 2009 exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard, featured his 9,000 postcard collection to reveal the symbiotic relationship with his own photographs.
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