Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936, printed circa 1962
Walker Evans was remarkably adept at straddling the cultural divide between documentary photography and the museum. One of several photographers hired by the Farm Security Administration to document the Depression, Evans made some of his most famous images in the summer of 1936: pictures of impoverished families in Hale County, Alabama, later published in his book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Just two years later, he was honored with a one-person show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which had only recently embraced photography as an art form. This image of the many portraits in a photographer’s studio – an homage to the workaday photographer and the faces of ordinary Americans – became, in the context of a museum exhibition, a statement about the art and meaning of photography.