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Walker Evans

United States of America

03 Nov 1903 - 10 Apr 1975


‘It’s as though there’s a wonderful secret in a certain place and I can capture it. Only I can do it at this moment, only this moment and only me.’ Walker Evans 1938 1

This image reveals Evans’s late blooming love of the Polaroid – and how the human form can be presented in colour, in a specific context (in this case the photographer’s foot on a curly carpet).

In the early 1970s the Polaroid Corporation gave a number of major photographers cameras and film stock in order that the Polaroid process would be seen as more than a popular toy. Evans became an enthusiastic devotee of the medium, creating more than 2400 prints in the last few years of his life. Although he was known for his black-and-white work and had always distanced himself from colour photography he now claimed to be rejuvenated by the Polaroid technique and in 1974 said: ‘it reduces everything to your brains and taste.’2 Evans used Polaroid to photograph subjects he was most familiar with, for example the various elements of the street as well as still-lifes and people. The jewel-like aspect of the small format clearly appealed to him as he focused on details of animate and inanimate objects and was able to present them in the heightened tonalities of the Polaroid. Evans’s Polaroid has all the delicacy of his best black-and-white work and exhibits an excellent understanding of the vibrancy and immediacy of the medium. The veined foot of the artist on the curly carpet, the brightness of flesh on the lively, dark pile – all result in a richly textured image.

1. Johnson B ed 2004, ‘Photography speaks: 150 photographers on their art’, Aperture, New York p 140
2. Keller J c1995, ‘Walker Evans: Getty Museum collection’, Thames & Hudson, London/FA Praeger, New York p 359

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

colour Polaroid photograph


7.7 x 7.7 cm image; 31.9 x 31.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by Tiffany & Co 2006


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Walker Evans

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • (Walker Evans), Yuill/Crowley Gallery, Potts Point, 15 Jul 2005–13 Aug 2005

  • Joy before the object, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 28 Sep 2013–02 Feb 2014

Referenced in 1 publication


Donna Brett, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'A postwar modernist vision', pg.209-225, Sydney, 2007, 220 (colour illus.).