Along with his masters Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, Walker Evans (Saint Louis, Missouri, 1903 – New Haven, Connecticut, 1975) was a prominent exponent of straight photography, also called direct photography. Passionate about literature, in 1923 he moved to Paris in order to learn French and attend literature classes at the Sorbonne. There, equipped with a Kodak Vest Pocket, Evans made his first photographs. From literature he acquired a taste for describing everyday life, a motif that became a pillar of his photographic work, which he began to develop professionally after his return to New York in 1927.
A portraitist of life and of the American worldview, Evans worked for several magazines such as Time and Fortune throughout his career. In 1935 he collaborated with the Farm Security Administration, a government agency whose objective was tackling poverty in the rural United States during the Great Depression. Stemming from this project he made images that have become icons of documentary photography, along with those he made for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the 1941 book he published with writer James Agee.
Some of his most significant accolades include the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959, the post of Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1972, and the prize awarded to him by the Mark Rothko Foundation in 1973.The 1938 show Walker Evans: American Photographs at MoMA was the institution’s first one-person photography exhibition and is credited with legitimizing documentary photography internationally as an artistic form.