Saturday, October 31, 2009

a street in Selma

During the winter of 1935-36, Walker Evans moved through the American South on assignment from the Farm Security Administration. Evans and the other FSA photographers were given great freedom to select subjects and even locations for their work. They all depicted people in their homes and workplaces, suffering, enduring, and waiting out hard times. Evans was unusual in choosing also to show architectural subjects — boarding houses, farm shacks, shops, and the like, and the billboards, marquees, and other public advertising of the time. He took the following photographs one late morning in December 1935 on a street in Selma, Alabama.

All come from FSA collections in LC's Prints and Photos Division. All have captions by LC staff made from information in the FSA sets of negatives and prints. Evans was notorious for failing to give details about his pictures and these are no exception.

Evans took these two at the same location at almost the same time:

{Sidewalk scene in Selma, Alabama}

{Sidewalk scene in Selma, Alabama}

As you can see from the white-hatted shoeshine man on the right of the top photo and on the left of the bottom one, the two can almost be combined into a seamless panorama image. He moved the camera between the two shots and that took enough time so that the scene in the open doorway changed (people in the first and a dog in the second), but the time elapsed was small enough so that shoeshine man holds the same pose in both.

Here are the two images stitched together side by side:

Evans liked to take photos in strong light with the sun high but not directly overhead. He used a slow shutter to capture fine detail and keep both foreground and background in focus. The slow shutter is apparent where you see blurred motion of figures in the shadows.

Here are cropped details from both of the photos:

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