Walker Evans photographs in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men - Essay Example

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The book ‘Let us Now Praise Famous Men’ came up out of an assignment to James Agee who did the text and Walker Evans who did the photos, to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecroppers families in the US South during dust prowl. The subject of the…
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Walker Evans photographs in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
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Walker Evans photographs in the book Let us Now Praise Famous Men The book ‘Let us Now Praise Famous Men’ came up outof an assignment to James Agee who did the text and Walker Evans who did the photos, to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecroppers families in the US South during dust prowl. The subject of the book is the lives of three Alabama tenant families. The book starts with dozens of Evans’s uncaptioned pictures, each image getting its own page, before introducing Agee’s writing as Book. Walker (1903-1975), is an exceptional American artist who invented a vital American mage that people yearned for. Most of Walker’s work were in the 1930s and were even incorporated in some of the documents of the Great Depression. However, these issues did not only concern the 1930s tribulations but also reflected on modern films, literature and traditional visual arts.
Although this particular book is presented as documentary and true critics say that the pictures were somewhat posed for technical and aesthetic reasons. This has led to number of controversies over the truth of historical records (Kaja, 2008).
Evans pictures are photographic, very direct and even appear to be literal. Perhaps the most remarkable picture in this book is the third, the picture of Mrs Gudger. It shows a woman with a beautifully bony face, thinning black hair, sunken or perhaps bitten-in mouth and sun-narrowed eyes. The face is a single concentrated phrase of suffering; you are bound to have an immediate outgoing impulse toward it, but this is at once hemmed in, at once made careful and respectful, by what the camera does. It is significant that, like all the pictures in the book, this is a portrait; it was "sat for" and "posed" and not only does the pose tell more than could be told by unconsciousness of the camera but the sitter gains in dignity when allowed to defend herself against the lens. The gaze of the woman returning our gaze checks our pity; and it is further checked by the cameras observance of the strands of jetty hair, of the sharp horizontals of eyebrows, eyes and mouth which are repeated in the three parallel shadows of the clapboard wall behind, and by the cameras light emphasis on the early wrinkles and the puckered forehead, which are delicately repeated in the grain of the wood. And this is true of all of Evans pictures of the Gudger, Woods and Ricketts families.
The entire hullaballoo about the photos; the rocking chair being moved, about the time on the clock, about the time the photos, about objects being added or removed is much fuss over nothing. Walker did a good job in his photography, we just need to enjoy and leave the analysis aside.
Work cited
Kaja, S. (2008). “Moving Beyond the Politics of Blame: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Desire of the Analysts: Psychoanalysis and Cultural Criticism, ed. Greg Forter and Paul
Allen Miller. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 136. Read More
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