Subway Portrait

Subway Portrait


Walker Evans

(American, 1903-1975)

Vintage gelatin silver print

Image: 12.3 x 18.2 cm (4 13/16 x 7 3/16 in.); Matted: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)

Gift in memory of Laura Burgess 1987.152


For four years, Evans secretly photographed passengers on New York subways with a camera hidden in his jacket. Since he could not look through the viewfinder and the subjects did not know they were being photographed, these images are neutral portraits without preening or prejudice. They are also experiments in chance and intuition, traits explored by the Surrealists in the 1920s. Evans commented about the subway riders: “You don’t see among them the face of a judge or a senator or a bank president. What you do see is at once sobering, startling, and obvious: these are the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

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