From the depths of the Great Depression, the impulse to capture the distinctive character of the United States was felt by photographers, poets, filmmakers, and painters alike. Walker Evans answered this call, harnessing photography to connect art with the everyday. His friend Lincoln Kirstein wrote of his photographs in 1938, “What poet has said as much? What painter has shown as much? Only newspapers, the writers of popular music, [and] the technicians of advertising and radio have in their blind energy accidentally, fortuitously, evoked for future historians such a powerful monument to our moment.”
For many artists, the government provided essential support, fostering creative expression as singular as the individuals receiving funding. The resulting works embraced the prevailing progressive agenda and supplied a vision of the lives of ordinary Americans. Nearly half of the pictures Evans included in American Photographs had been commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, a federal agency. The images function ably both as documents of contemporary experience and in the service of Evans’s art
Organized by Clément Chéroux, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, with Kaitlin Booher, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Antoinette Roberts and Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Photography.