Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Old Ideals and New Horizons


The Artist

Walker Evans was born November 3rd, 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri and was raised in Toledo, New York City, and Chicago before attending Williams College for a year. After leaving school, Evans traveled to Paris where he sat in on literature classes at the Sorbonne. It was in Paris that his love of photography first began. Upon returning to New York City in 1927, Evans took a job with a stockbroker firm, but the photographer did not last long on Wall Street and turned his focus onto photography in the coming years.

Shortly after returning from France, Evans befriended Lincoln Kirstein. Kirstein was one of the most important cultural figures of his time and an avid supporter of Evans' interests in photography. In 1933, Evans took a life-changing trip to Havana to take photographs for Carleton Beals’ book The Crime of Cuba and it was on this trip that he encountered another important cultural figure: Ernest Hemingway.

1935 proved to be a productive year for Evans. At this time, the photographer first collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) when he provided photographs for the museum's “African Negro Art” exhibition. During 1935, Evans also embarked on a photographic campaign with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in which he documented the effects of the Depression on rural America. His photograph series for the FSA remains one of his most recognized pursuits.

In 1938, Walker Evans was honored by MoMA when he became the first photographer to have an exhibition dedicated exclusively to his work at the institution. At this time, Evans also collaborated with James Agee on the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which documented the friends’ trip through rural America. Evans published photographs of the trip and Agee contributed text. It was around this time that Evans was first approached about photographing the Wheaton campus.

In the following years, Evans was showcased in a retrospective exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1966, the photographer also published a book of photographs that he had taken underground in the New York subway. In 1965, Evans became a professor of photography at the Yale School of Art and Architecture and he stayed in this position until 1974, the year before his death. Evans passed away on April 10, 1975 in New Haven, Connecticut.

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