Art Essays on ‘American Photographs – Walker Evans’
Like the production works of many artists, the work of Walker Evans is an art of much contradiction, but this can be the same aspect by which his art acquires their power and through the contradictions they clearly reconcile. This would be the reason as to why Lincoln Kirstein wrote a note saying in her words that “the productions presented in this book are intended to be looked at in their given sequence.” Advice that might be taken for granted by others but back then when the book was published, an act that conceded with Mr. Evans’s first ever solo photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, the words became a resounding declaration.
A lot of people have suggested that Evans was suggesting a sequence of putting pictures together, an act that in itself becomes art. A great example is the arrangement of the images of a flag, a plant, and faces, these commands and awards scrutiny, an aspect that makes the photo gaze back at the viewer; this brings about an unblinking inquiry. This book has a fascinating background; American Photographs is one of the icons of modern photography.
The interest and influence in Walker Evans’s American Photographs have continued to grow ever high, since the first publication by The Museum of Modern Art in 1938. A modestly and elegant scaled cataloged accompanies exhibitions of similar names, held at the Museum from September 28 to November 18, 1938.
Both the book and especially the exhibition have been the subjects of an impressive array of discourse by artists, critics, cultural historians, curators, and photography enthusiasts, from William Carlos Williams to Alan Trachtenberg, within books which had been crucial photographer’s touchstone and the people who sought to understand lyrical medium potentials.
Bringing US Photographs back into print would allow members of new generations to hold the sequences 87 photographs in the hands and form their opinions of its worth. Taking advantage of the changing ways of producing photos back then, the book was then printed in duotone offset lithography making use of Evans’ original plates; this helped preserve the precision and balance of the original reproduction but allowed for subtle and smooth tonal shifts. There was though the challenge of locating satisfactory prints to use as the matrices of reproductions back then. During the period there were only a few sources of prints which held the negatives for much of Evans’s work and only a few of these prints used to make the original plates existed. This also led to getting some of the images being cropped as no print could hold them.
These challenges still exist today in the production of this book, yet considering the way in which Evans used his prints as points of departure for his reproduction, the existing seems more than enough to produce a new edition that can convey the character of the original book.
The current use of digital printing presents another challenge as source material continues to deteriorate or disappear and the possibilities for digital interference is quite massive making it more necessary to be cunning in characterizing the forms in which preceding editions are going to take advantage of the current technology. In the search for quality and originality, it is equally important to balance the respect for the past with the potential for approximating ever-more-closely the beauty of prints made by Evans.