[Subway Passengers, New York City]

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
Gelatin silver print
12.2 x 15.0 cm (4 13/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1971
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Not on view
During the winter months between 1938 and 1941, Evans strapped a camera to his midsection, cloaked it with his overcoat, and snaked a cable release down his suit sleeve to photograph New York City subway passengers unawares. In his book of these unposed portraits, Many Are Called (1966), the artist referred to his quarry as "the ladies and gentlemen of the jury." What he was after stylistically, though, was more in keeping with the criminal mug shot: frontal and without emotional inflection. In this photograph, the tabloid headline "PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLED" across the newspaper nods to Evans’s interest in vernacular source material.
Inspired by the incisive realism of Honoré Daumier's Third-Class Carriage (29.100.129), Walker Evans sought to avoid the vanity, sentimentality, and artifice of conventional studio portraiture. The subway series, he later said, was "my idea of what a portrait ought to be: anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind."
Inscription: incomplete record
Walker Evans; Arnold H. Crane, c. 1969

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Faces from the Collection," January 1, 1987–May 1, 1987.

Museum Folkwang. "The Truth of the Real: Edward Hopper and Photography," June 28, 1992–September 20, 1992.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Walker Evans," February 1, 2000–May 14, 2000.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Walker Evans," June 2, 2000–September 12, 2000.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Walker Evans," December 17, 2000–March 4, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Few Are Chosen: Street Photography and the Book, 1936-1966," November 5, 2004–March 6, 2005.

New-York Historical Society. "Swing Time: Reginald Marsh and Thirties New York," June 21, 2013–September 2, 2013.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play," March 7, 2016–July 31, 2016.

Evans, Walker. Many Are Called. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966. no. 44.

Hopper, Edward. The Truth of the Real: Edward Hopper and Photography, edited by Georg W. Koltzsch, and Heinz Liesbrock. Essen: Museum Folkwang, 1992.

Hambourg, Maria Morris, Doug Eklund, Mia Fineman, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. Walker Evans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. no. 114.

Negative date: 1938 or 1941