Walker Evans: I think I was photographing against the style of the time, against salon photography, against beauty photography, against art photography.
A photographer friend invited me to join her at the Walker Evans Exhibition in Berlin last week. I had never heard of him but apparently he is extremely famous.
The website is confusing and I ended up going to the wrong place. When I finally got to the right place, the queue was enormous! Luckily, they were all waiting for the David Bowie Exhibition… Eeep!
Right, so let me tell you all about it. Walker Evans (1903 – 1975) was one of the biggest photographers in the 20th century and his career spanned five decades. The exhibition has over 200 of his original prints on show. Most of the photographs hail from the time of the Great Depression in America (1930s) and these black-and-white photos are his trademark prints.
I’m going to be honest here people, so please don’t be offended if you don’t agree.
The photos mainly feature America, but also his trips to Cuba and London. There are large numbers of portrait photos of his friends. I have been studying photography recently in order to take nicer photos for the blog, but I wasn’t inspired much by what I saw. I would say most of the photos Walker Evans took were blurry. Almost every portraits was out of focus and I didn’t feel they captured the spirit of the people in the pictures. The background photos he took were often boring or even badly angled. Even though they were black-and-white, the prints seemed off-colour – too black and dark.
Now to what I did enjoy. The details in the photos: religious decorations in a Mississippi house, rocking chairs on every porch in Louisiana, gentlemen in London wearing top hats and walking with umbrellas. I liked his photos of random people on the subway in New York – he was rebelling against the “typical posed portrait” and went on the trains with a secret camera, trying to capture normal people. I also loved that the people in the photos all wore hats and fabulous dresses. The clothing seemed to be tailored to fit the people, very different from today’s style.
And so you have it. If you are interested in photography this may not be the best place to go. You will learn how photo taking has changed, but I’m not sure there are tips to gain here. However, if you love history, this is great. It’s really like taking a step back into time and seeing what the people wore, how they furnished their homes, what kind of poses were “in fashion” at the time. I enjoyed it a lot and my friend thought it was magical to finally see his real prints after studying him for so long and the building is absolutely lush!
It’s on until the 9th November 2014 and cost 7 Euros entry. Website here.
*Insiders tip: If you want to see every single photo for free, you can actually go right into the building and on the second floor, just outside the entrance to the exhibition, there is a little table with his book of photographs on it. You can sit there comfortably and look without paying anything, but then you don’t get to see the original prints so… 😉