Roadside stand near Birmingham, 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. Evans was sent to Hale County, Alabama in the summer of 1936, along with James Agee. There the duo stayed with three impoverished white tenant families, documenting the experience in text and photographs that were later published in the revolutionary book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Evans set out to capture regional dialects and colloquialisms now lost to time. In this photograph we see the once ubiquitous roadside stand that used to dominate American highways, where purveyors of local produce and odds and ends would set up shop. Evans clearly harbors an interest in type and linguistics, featured prominently in this photo. What we see in this photograph recalls a bygone era before the advent of neons and standardized fonts. The quirky type and images present on the front of the store read as naive and wholesome; they reference a time before rampant consumerism and slick, well packaged eateries. Without having been conscious of it at the time, Evans created an image that ignites a longing for traditional, rustic Americana, and the perfectly imperfect.
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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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