May 19, 2012

Walker Evans - The Fields, Burroughs and Tingl families: American Great Depression Icons -

These pictures became the visual symbols of the American Great Depression but they have a long story that you can read on wikipedia. I paste it here for you: "In the summer of 1936 ... [Walker Evans] and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans's photographs and Agee's text detailing the duo's stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. Noting a similarity to the Beals' book, the critic Janet Malcolm, in her 1980 book Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography, has pointed out the contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee's prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans's photographs of sharecroppers. The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were "Soviet agents," although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd's wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evans's photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue. Charles Burroughs, who was four years old when Evans and Agee visited the family, was "still angry" at them for not even sending the family a copy of the book; the son of Floyd Burroughs was also reportedly angry because the family was "cast in a light that they couldn't do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant". You see, sometimes the stories behind the pictures shed a rather different light on what we could conclude based on the images. Actually, these pictures are a fantastic testimony of the persistance of these lives throughout time using the photography as vehicle. These human beings seem as living today as they were at the times and their misery is exactly the same than the one we can cross in our today's town and suburbs and we must not do drop a tear of emotion to these poor people because they belong to the past and not consider the ones who live the same because they are in our present.

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