Between 1938 and 1941, Walker Evans (American, 19031975) used a hidden camera to make more than six hundred photographs of passengers riding the subway. Although the setting was public, Evans found that with his subjects unaware of the camera and lost in their thoughts, "The guard is down and the mask is off . . . even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there is a mirror), people's faces are in naked repose down in the subway." He later wrote that the subway series was his idea of what a portrait ought to be, "anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind."
The subway portraits, eight of which are included in the exhibition, remained unpublished for twenty-five years, until 1966 when Many Are Called, a book of eighty-nine photographs, was initially released.