After dropping out of college in 1922, Evans took a job at the New York Public Library, then spent a year in Paris polishing his French and writing short stories and nonfiction essays. He returned to New York in 1927 intent on becoming a writer, but also took up the camera and gradually redirected his aesthetic impulses to bring the strategies of literature-lyricism, irony, incisive description, and narrative structure-into the medium of photography. His principal subject was the vernacular, the indigenous expressions of a people, found in roadside stands, cheap cafés, advertisements, and small-town main streets. In this photograph made in Natchez, Mississippi, Evans focuses the viewer's attention on the collage of words and pictures left behind by a nineteenth-century sign painter. It was a strategy he learned from studying the photographs of Eugène Atget (seen to the left), about whose work Evans wrote in 1931: "His general note is lyrical understanding of the street, trained observation of it, special feeling for patina, eye for revealing detail, over all of which is thrown a poetry which is not 'the poetry of the street' or 'the poetry of Paris,' but the projection of Atget's person."
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on print, verso TL: "41"; Stamped on verso BC: "Walker Evans", numbered 11 65
[Marlborough Gallery]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, February 2, 1976
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sight Unseen: Photographs from the Gilman Collection".
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard," February 3, 2009–May 24, 2009.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Doug Eklund, Mia Fineman, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. Walker Evans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. no. 47.