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Description - Walker Evans by James R. Mellow

The Depression Era photographs of Walker Evans (1903-1975) remain some of the most indelible and iconic images in the American consciousness. James R. Mellow's landmark biography of Evans-the first to make use of all his diaries, letters, work logs, and contact sheets-shows that Evans was not the social propagandist that many presume, but rather a fastidious observer, recording, simply, the way things were. Walker Evans is not only one of the most finely wrought portraits of a major American artist ever, it is also a fascinating cultural history of America in the 1930s and'40s.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465090785
ISBN-10: 0465090788
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 165mm x 44mm)
Pages: 656
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 20-Sep-2001
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Walker Evans by James R. Mellow

Book Reviews - Walker Evans by James R. Mellow

US Kirkus Review » A superb biography of a photographer who, dead for a quarter of a century, still exerts a powerful influence. The late literary biographer Mellow (Hemingway: A Life without Consequences, 1992, etc.), who died in 1997, views Walker Evans (1903-1975) primarily as a politically committed storyteller and documentarian; in this regard he echoes the critic Carl Van Vechten, who wrote of a 1938 collection of Evans's images of the Depression era, "if everything in American civilization were destroyed except Walker Evans's photographs, they could tell us a good deal about American life." Unlike some critics, however, Mellow does not take this to mean that Evans was primarily a left-wing propagandist, even if his most famous work, the photographs accompanying James Agee's text Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, were summary indictments of American capitalism. (Evans's friends, Mellow writes, were puzzled when in 1945 Evans accepted a position at the high-capitalist Fortune magazine, whose publisher Henry Lute had become convinced that "it is easier to tom poets into business journalists than to tom bookkeepers into writers" and who gave Evans a free hand during the photographer's 21 years on the magazine's staff.) The portrait that Mellow offers is one of Evans as an extraordinarily talented and hard-working artist but also as something of a wastrel, one who greeted his biographer at their first meeting in 1974 with the offer of an early-morning glass of brandy and who logged time getting soused with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba and Edmund Wilson in Manhattan. Despite his penchant for the bottle, though, as Mellow ably documents, Evans inspired and taught many young photographers, perhaps the most notable of them the Swiss emigre Robert Frank; he also crafted a rich body of work that is well represented in the 150 images placed throughout Mellow's text. Well written, lively, and thoroughly documented, Mellow's biography is a fine contribution to American art and cultural history. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - James R. Mellow

James R. Mellow (1926-1997) won the National Book Award in 1983 for his biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was the author of a trilogy of biographies on writers of the Lost Generation, including Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. In his forty-year career as a writer, art critic, and biographer, Mellow wrote for the New York Times, Architectural Digest, the Washington Post, Gourmet, and Arts magazine.

Books By James R. Mellow

Hemingway by James R. Mellow
Paperback, August 1993