AU’s Jule Collins Smith Museum to exhibit “American Classics: Selected Photographs of Alabama by Walker Evans”

Walker Evans (1903-1975), Crossroads Store. Sprott, Alabama, 1936, Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C.
AUBURN – “American Classics: Selected Photographs of Alabama by Walker Evans” will be on display at Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art from June 13 through Aug. 23. The exhibition will feature a selection of images made in 1936, when the editors of Fortune magazine sent writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans, on assignment to document the southern sharecropping economic system.

“The photographs in this exhibition reveal the innate strength and nobility of these Hale County sharecroppers and by studying them we discover our shared humanity,” said Marilyn Laufer, director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum. “In many ways, Evans’s images have evolved into an impressionable national memory of the Depression era.”

The exhibition will include silver gelatin prints made from the original negatives on loan to the museum as well as archival digital prints made by the Library of Congress from the photographer’s negatives or prints.

“Both Agee and Evans seemed to have challenged the preconceived notions of the editors at Fortune and their work for this assignment was rejected, giving Agee the excuse and opportunity to expand the text and seek out a publisher,” said Laufer.

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” first published in 1941, was presented as two separate portfolios with 31 of Evans’s images followed by Agee’s subjective descriptions of the lives and possessions of these farmers interwoven with his complex meditations on the nature of art and culture.

Laufer, whose area of expertise is the history of photography, will present a program on Evans and his collaboration with writer James Agee at the museum on July 17 at 5 p.m. A reception will follow the presentation.

Evans was born into an affluent family in St. Louis, Mo., in 1903. In the early 1920s, he lived among the intellectual expatriates of Paris and focused on writing. On returning to New York, he turned his interest to photography, for which he earned a solid reputation. In 1935 he was one of the first photographers hired by the federal government’s newly formed Resettlement Administration, later known as the Farm Security Administration, to document the effects of the Depression and to promote New Deal programs.

For more information about the Jule Collins Smith Museum and its event and exhibition, go to http://jcsm.auburn.edu/index.php or call (334) 844-1484.

Contact: Colleen Bourdeau, (334) 844-7075, (cbourdeau@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)