Walker Evans (1903-1975) remains one of the most important and influential photographers in the history of the medium. His career spanned the emergence of the modern mass media in the 1920s to the full acceptance of photography as an art form in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of Evans’s individual images have become landmarks both of photography and the social history of that era.
Curated by David Campany, the exhibition takes a different look at Evans, placing the emphasis on his printed pages, and in particular his work for American magazines. Evans began to publish in 1929 and soon found ways to set his own assignments, write the accompanying words and design his layouts.
These photo essays were often subtly at odds with the editorial line of the magazines that published them – notably Fortune, America’s prime magazine of big business and industry. Working in both black and white and colour, Evans used the popular magazine page to produce a resistant counter-commentary on modern society and its values.
His subjects included automobile junkyards, graffiti, shop window displays and postcards. Where the mass media promoted consumerism, Evans valued enduring objects and the persistence of the past in the present. Where the mass media enjoyed celebrity culture, he photographed anonymous citizens, which are the focus of this exhibition.
Evans was a pioneer of modern photography but on the magazine page we can see his understanding of context; the meanings of his images are shaped by editing, writing and design. Experimental and yet classical, these photo-essays have been overlooked until recently.
Walker Evans: The Magazine Work
Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy
Exhibition continues to 13 November 2016
For more information, visit: www.ccp.org.au for details.
Image: Walker Evans, page spread for ‘Beauties of the Common Tool’, Fortune, July 1955. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.