Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard at the Met

Walker Evans is one of the defining figures in the history of American photography. He fused careful composition with documentary realism in the interest of capturing the raw but nevertheless resonant details of American life, paving the way for numerous other photographers, including William Eggleston. He was also an inveterate postcard collector (he had more than 9,000 at the time of his death), and an exhibit on now at the Met demonstrates the relationship between Evans's own work and the aesthetic of the postcard.

Seeing the cards --- many of which are black-and-white photographs that have been redrawn in color --- with a small sample of Evans's photographs makes the connections immediately apparent: both capture everyday moments and scenes that, by dint of sheer representation, become memorable. But the exhibit also reveals Evans's own innovations. The postcards strive to illuminate their subjects, rendering them cleaner and more appealing than they actually are. (Note how many lights are on in the bottom card of a Mount Vernon street scene.) Evans, however, has no patience for such sentimental effects: his subjects stand as they are, free of pretense and altered only by the photographer's eye.


Anonymous said…
i saw the robert frank exhibit at the national gallery last week, it was inspiring.

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