Interior of unemployed man's house. Morgantown, West Virginia
Born in 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri, Walker Evans was one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. For fifty years, Evans recorded the modern America in the making. Evans had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past. His principal subject was people in roadside stands, cheap cafés, simple bedrooms, and small-town main streets. In June 1935, he accepted a job from the U.S. Department of the Interior to photograph a government-built resettlement communities of unemployed coal miners in West Virginia to demonstrate how the federal government was attempting to improve the lot of rural communities during the Depression. His photographs reveal a deep respect for the traditions of the common man and secured his reputation as America’s leading documentary artist.
The FSA (Farm Security Administration) is famous for its well known influential photography program that portrayed the challenges of rural poverty. Creating false perceptions of individuals (A prime example of situational manipulation), photographers were hired to report and document the plight of poor farmers. In 1935–44, eleven photographers would come to work on this project. They were: Arthur Rothstein, Theo Jung, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Carl Mydans, Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, John Vachon, and John Collier. In total, the black-and-white portion of the collection consists of about 175,000 black-and-white film negatives.