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7 / Domestic Life

Bud (William) Fields, Lily Rogers Fields, and Lilian Fields
Bud (William) Fields, Lily Rogers Fields, and Lilian Fields
Artist / Origin Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)
Region: North America
Date 1935–36
Material Gelatin silver print
Location Prints and Photographs Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Credit © Metropolitan Museum of Art/Courtesy of the Library of Congress

expert perspective

Jeff L. RosenheimCurator of Photography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bud (William) Fields, Lily Rogers Fields, and Lilian Fields

» Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)

expert perspective

Jeff L. Rosenheim Jeff L. Rosenheim Curator of Photography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A lot of what makes an interesting or great Walker Evans photograph great is his choice of subject matter. Evans understood that some forms were inherently symbolic. He also photographed the most fragile forms of human existence. And tenant farmers’ cabins in Alabama represent The Great Depression in many ways. In terms of domestic description, it is the most essential body of photographs that we have from the twentieth century, the early part of the twentieth century.

These cabins had very little in them, but what was in them was so beautifully described by the camera. The camera’s ability to define those spaces is about trying to understand again what makes us Americans—what makes our spaces, domestic or otherwise, an American space. We are able to see what life was really like. Not the life that Roosevelt said it would be or what it should be. And not the life that the politicians and the bureaucrats said it should be. Not the life that the union was trying to propose it should be, but as it was. I think Evans thought with his camera that by revealing things as they are we would be able to learn something and maybe make change.” 

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