Comments/Context: Between 1938 and 1941, Walker Evans made hundreds of images of passengers in the New York subways, using a hidden camera concealed in his coat. These images were later edited and sequenced into the famous book Many Are Called, with an introduction provided by James Agee. The project was ground-breaking for several reasons: it introduced an element of chance into the idea of portraiture, his sitters were caught unaware and therefore had no opportunity to put on a persona or otherwise compose themselves, and it created a collective snapshot of the diversity of the city at that time. The dark images of blank faces mix the up-close intimacy of the voyeur with the social distance of the stranger.
I'm not sure that many of these images can really stand on their own as individual photographs of durable merit. But when you see them displayed in massive groups, or gathered together in book form, the specific moments and anonymous individuals fade away, and Marker's pictures become a hypnotic, cinematic impression of both the commonality of our shared experience and the real separations and differences to be found in our jammed together overlapping lives. In this remake, the formality and honesty of Evans has been replaced by something altogether more fluid and chaotic.
Peter Blum Gallery
526 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001