Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Friday Picture


... Well a series of pictures really. By the inspired Walker Evans. In the late 1930s, photographer Walker Evans and writer James Agee collaborated on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a portrait of rural sharecroppers in the Deep South. While working on the book, they collaborated on a lesser known project: Many Are Called, a three-year study of travellers on the New York subway. Evans used a hidden camera, photographing unsuspecting passengers traveling around the city. These images invite us to ask questions about these strangers, their lives and personalities. Walker presents a cross-section of people who are unposed and anonymous, as a result, the images have a wonderful sense of directness. These images really speak to me as I love people watching. When I was travelling to work on the tube every day, I always used to observe and wonder. I think there is something about being in such close proximity with such a diverse group of strangers accompanied by the unwritten rule of non-interaction that makes you feel it is perfectly fine to be nosy and eavesdrop / stare in a way you would never do outside the confines of a metal cylinder!

Evans catches his subjects in typical subway behavior, deep in daydreams, or asleep or gazing off into space. I like the middle couple who stare back at him, suggesting that even without a visible camera he was intently observing his subjects but also was being observed back. As we are put in the position of photographer it feels like they are observing us too.

4 comments:

Being Brazen said...

I used to always stare at people on the underground when i lived in London - people can be so interesting just to look at :)

Jamiedidit said...

Ooh, I like the one in the middle too - that they have the same sort of half-incredulous expression. I hope they are (or were) one of those couples who just "gets" each other and sees things in the same light.

agirl said...

Such beautiful and evocative photos. And this is exactly what I love to do on the tube. I always take a book, but end up never reading it, and just look at people around me instead. There's so much to learn about human nature.

The Cwtch said...

They are wonderful photographs - such a simple concept and yet they speak to all of us naturally inquisitive human beings! I'd love to see someone replicate the project today to compare and contrast.