Walker Evans: On the Outside Looking Inward

Photograph of Walker Evans by Edwin Locke
Walker Evans photo by Edwin Locke

A portrait of America

Walker Evans’ documentary photography is best known for his portrait of depression era America.  Two significant collections that come to mind are his book projects, Message from the Interior and American Photographs. In these photographic collections we are presented with precise images about the depression and a portrait of what is distinctly American culture.

To try to understand the photographs of Walker Evans is to put oneself in the position of being on the outside and peering in.  Viewing these photographs creates a sense of voyeurism and estrangement from the subject matter that is similar to looking at one’s own middle-aged appearance in the mirror; you can easily identify yourself and yet have difficulty recognizing what you’ve become.

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Photography since 9/11

A photo of two mannequins.

“Our sense of the world is now ruled and shaped by images…” ~ Susan Sontag, 2003

So much about our world has changed since September 11th 2001.  Not only have world events transformed our sense of security and our place in the world, but also our understanding of ourselves has been changed by the proliferation of digital cameras since 2002 when cell phone cameras were first introduced in the United States.

Photography since 9/11 has become a vigilant effort to keep tabs on loved ones in a hopeless effort to feel safe again.  Over 200,000 images are uploaded to Facebook every minute and it is estimated that more than 880 billion photos a year were made by the end of 2014.  To photograph and to share images has become as natural as speaking and in many cases has reduced the use of written communication in our culture to a short text message or tweet. Continue reading “Photography since 9/11”