Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)
Gelatin silver print; 3 3/4 x 6 3/4 in. (9.6 x 17 cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, 2011 (2011.553.4)
In February 1935 Walker Evans left New York City on a meandering road trip to Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. It was the middle of the Great Depression, and he had been hired to promote photographs for a book about the finest surviving Greek Revival architecture in the American South. In New Orleans Evans dutifully recorded well-known examples of fine Creole building, but for himself paid equal attention to more common and unpretentious examples of the style: nineteenth-century tenements with a pastiche of Neoclassical motifs. He included this image of three nearly identical buildings-little temples with rooms for rent-in American Photographs (1938), his landmark publication that accompanied his first major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The photograph suggests a portrait of siblings who are quietly struggling to survive, searching for recognition and separate identities that they may likely never realize. In Louisiana pictures like this one Evans perfected the head-on frontal view and restrained camera distance that he had favored from early in his career. It became part of his signature style and the basis for many of his most successful photographs in the 1930s.