Walker Evans: Cuba
J. Paul Getty Museum. Essay by Andrei Codrescu and introduction by Judith Keller. ISBN-10: 1606060643, ISBN-13: 978-1606060643 $24.95
Published to coincide with the J. Paul Getty Museum exhibition, 'A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now,' Walker Evans Cuba is a striking window into the eye of a future master. The work in Cuba is uneven. Some shots reveal the preoccupations and talent that would later make Evans a world-class artist. Others aren’t much better than vacation snapshots. But for people who want to see how a photographic genius develops as well as those simply interested in Cuba's pre-revolutionary people and architecture, this is a valuable work.
Walker Evans is a major figure of 20th Century photography, cited by many other giants as an influence. Henri Cartier-Bresson, for example, told Charlie Rose that Evans was one of his photographic 'fathers.' More than any other body of his work, the images Evans created during the Great Depression for the Farm Securities Administration cemented his reputation as a keen observer of people and their spaces.
This series, taken a few years before the FSA work, is not as widely known. In 1933, Evans went to Cuba on assignment for the publisher of progressive crusader Carleton Beals’s then-forthcoming book, The Crime of Cuba. He was to document the conditions under the dictator Gerardo Machado. Beals and his publisher likely wanted imagery wrought with emotion and designed to evoke outrage at the conditions of the poor. Evans, already somewhat of a non-conformist, went for something more subtle: storytelling that was more journalistic and less overtly opinionated than that of his colleagues.
While in Cuba, Evans befriended Ernest Hemingway, and perhaps Hemingway’s ability to artfully depict a moment or interaction with simple and unadorned prose inspired the young photographer. The curator and critic John Szarkowski, in his classic Looking at Photographs, accurately distills Evans’s style thus: '...puritanically economical, precisely measured, frontal, unemotional, dryly textured, insistently factual…but…Evans' pictures, however laconic in manner, were rich in expressive content.'
|© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art|
In many shots, the emerging young artist experiments with elements that would become hallmarks of his style. Evans shoots living environments that illustrate both the broad cultural context as well as telling idiosyncratic details of their inhabitants. He also consistently photographs people framed by two-dimensional graphic elements like signs, posters, or print ads. Throughout Cuba, there is a rigor to the arrangement of objects within the frame. For example, lines and planes are expertly used in one shot in a Havana courtyard. A statue’s raised fist creates a line extending into the arm of a bending man, while all around laundry sheets and ropes create parallel or perpendicular lines. Photographers who like to employ 'frames within frames' will find inspiration in Evans’s shot of the façade of a Havana movie theater, in which no fewer than seven mini frames balance out the whole.
|© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art|
None of the photos can compare to his later masterpieces, but many of them show his original eye and vision. Evans is often credited with the ability to simply record what appeared in his viewfinder in an objective and unembellished way. These early pictures indicate that Evan’s “simplicity” is smokescreen for a complex vision. It’s no easy feat to compose a scene in a graphically pleasing way while capturing a poignant moment or a richly informative living space. The work of a rare talent is evident in his ability to do so in a manner that, upon first glance, seems hardly more than straightforward documentation, but that continues to feel fresh and new upon repeated viewing. For Walker Evans fans, or for anyone who wants to see a major photographer capturing Cuba at very specific place and time, Walker Evans Cuba is a fascinating and engaging book.
Feb 19, 2014
Jul 14, 2014
May 5, 2014
Oct 22, 2013
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.