Walker Evans’ postcard collection

I love postcards. I had a fabulous postcard collection as a kid (currently stashed in my parents’ attic somewhere) so I’m fascinated by the 9000 piece postcard collection of pioneer of American photography Walker Evans currently on exhibit at the Met.

Walker Evans is best known for his Depression Era photography, especially of migrant farmers and sharecroppers he made for the Farm Security Administration.

He began collecting these penny cards when he was a boy of 12 in 1915. He kept on collecting for the next 60 years after that, and you can even see the influence of some of these postcards on his early photography.

“On the most simple level, the postcard is this democratic form,” said Jeff Rosenheim, the show’s curator and an Evans scholar. “It shows in a simple, unvarnished, artless way the generic realities of local life — the small-town Main Street, the local bank, the park.”

Rosenheim said Evans would borrow this “straightforward, mostly frontal style” for his own photography, producing “documents that record the scene with an economy of means and with simple respect.”

Here’s one the postcards in his collection next to one of Evans’ own photographs taken 6 years later:

The influence of the postcard on the photographer is impossible to miss.

Besides that, there are just some awesome postcards in the collection. The ones are display are mainly from the first half of the 20th c. They’re colorized, not shot using color film, and some of them have a great sense of whimsy and fun about them.

My two favorites:

For more of Walker Evans’ photography, see his catalogue on ArtNet.

5 thoughts on “Walker Evans’ postcard collection

  1. I love postcards too and occasionally buy postcard books from Amazon. Pomegranate Publishing has a great 200-card bundle you can buy.

    These are fascinating. I like the photographs of signs, they’re always interesting.

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