From the 1920s until he died in 1975, Walker Evans’ work set a high bar for documentary photography, revealing poetry in the ordinary. He was a photographer’s photographer, already accomplished by the time of his unique collaboration in 1941 on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a groundbreaking book written by his friend James Agee (himself a unique talent – a writer’s writer).
Evan’s career was not a straight path to what he became famous for, not least because he drew from a much larger culture than photography alone.
Known for being a most American photographer, documenting ordinary lives and environments, his focus came out of an early antipathy for his own country; influenced by European taste and culture, he started as a writer, where he got assigned to see the conditions he would choose to document on film.
Every photographer in the Western world, documentary, commercial, or fine art, can trace a link in their work back to Walker Evans.
Meredith Mendelsohn, writing for the terrific Artsy website, has written a well-informed, thoughtful piece on the opening of a major museum retrospective.