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5.0 out of 5 stars Walker's straight-on collection, 12 July 2010
This review is from: Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard (Hardcover)
Jeff Rosenheim has certainly packed a lot into this interesting book. As well as the four hundred postcards there is a transcript of an Evans lecture given to Yale Uni in 1964, facsimiles of articles he wrote: two for Fortune 1948, 1962 and Architectural Forum 1962, thirteen postcard size prints of his work that MoMA was thinking selling, twenty-seven cards that friends sent to Evans where the front and back are reproduced so you can read the comments of John Cheever, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Michael Lesy and Helen Levitt amongst others.

I thought the Yale lecture transcript was particular interesting. After a rather rambling start Evans, with the use of a slide-show of cards (twenty-seven of the thirty-three are reproduced here) reveals his thoughts on what he calls the `Lyric Documentary'. He rather agonised over whether the audience would interpret his love of these cards as a surrender to nostalgia and sentimentally. His passion for such an ordinary medium as the postcard was their simple, straight-on photo style completely devoid of artifice. His own photos reflected this and Rosenheim mentions other creative folk who Evens thought expressed the proper lyrical balance in their work: Eugene Atget; August Sander; Matthew Brady; Helen Levitt and Ben Shahn.

Most of the book is taken up the postcards which Walker Evans arranged in themes, thirty-four are included here. Mostly they are of buildings, street scenes and landscapes. All of them were originally black and white photos then hand coloured and printed (in Germany it seems). Looking closely I would say many have been retouched to reduce the size of vehicles and people. Page eighteen has a postcard from 1929 of Morgan City, Louisiana and Evans took the same shot in 1935 but the postcard has no telegraph poles and utility wires, street signs and a bridge in the background. Clearly most the postcards in the book have had an element of re-touching applied to the photos.

Here and there the message and address side of some cards are reproduced and it struck me, looking at the handwriting, that it's a wonder that the cards were delivered to the right address.

There plenty of books reproducing postcards from the years covered by this book but they are mostly aimed at collectors. Certainly none of them will have the passion that Walker Evans had for these simple cards that is clearly reflected in these pages.
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Robin Benson
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