The Italian Almanac

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an image of the Great Depression

Italian News - January 4

The hardship rural America suffered in the Great Depression is currently on show in Rome with an exhibition of shots by US photographer Walker Evans. The capital's Museo di Roma is currently playing host to over 100 pictures Evans took between 1935 and 1937 for the US Farm Security Administration (FSA).

His job was to document the economic and social situation of the day, especially in rural areas of southern and central USA, which had been devastated by the fall in agricultural prices following the 1929 Wall St. Crash. The results are photography's equivalent of John Steinbeck's classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

The shots were taken in an elegant-yet-austere style that inspired artists of future generations and won Evans recognition as one of the fathers of the documentary tradition in American photography. They portray the hunger-drawn faces of farmers and small-town Americans, as well as their living and working conditions and the affect the Great Depression had on the landscape.

Walker Evans was born to a middle class family in 1903 in Saint Louis, Missouri. After dropping out of university in New York and spending a spell in Paris in the late 1920s, he tried to carve himself a career as a writer. But he was reportedly intimidated by the greatness of people like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and so reverted to his childhood passion of photography.

He published his first images in 1930 and his break came three years later with a celebrated photographic report on Cuba. From then until his death in 1975 he set about compiling a visual catalogue of modern America.

The exhibition - entitled Walker Evans. Carbone e Argento. (Walker Evans. Coal and Silver.) wraps up on January 8.