This major retrospective of the work of American photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975) displays some 175 vintage prints from public and private collections throughout the United States and Canada, and draws on newly available material from the photographer's archive, which was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1994. The photographs span the artist's long and productive career, focusing not only on the classic pictorial documents of America during the Depression, but also on little-known experimental images from the 1920s, photo-essays for Fortune magazine from the 1940s and 1950s, and SX-70 Polaroid color prints from the 1970s. The exhibition is accompanied by two publications: a monographic treatment of Evans's work; and an anthology of materials that makes available for the first time the artist's early short stories, important letters, and critical essays now housed in the Walker Evans Archive.
Reacting against the Pictorialist tradition of Stieglitz, Steichen, and others of the preceding generation of photographers, Evans banished all artiness and artifice from his practice and let the subject—be it a West Virginia coal miner, a roadside vegetable stand in Alabama, or a torn movie poster on Cape Cod—reveal itself directly to the viewer with exquisite candor. He recorded everyday life in many forms: popular culture, the iconography of commerce and consumerism, the automobile and its impact on the landscape, new poverty, old wealth, and everything in between.