Alabama Tenant Farmer

Artist: Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut)

Date: 1936

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: 23.6 x 18.7 cm (9 5/16 x 7 3/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000

Accession Number: 2000.329

Rights and Reproduction: © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


This study of a cotton farmer is one of the masterpieces of Evans' landmark collaboration with James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published in 1941. For this project, Evans and Agee spent several weeks with three tenant farmers and their families, observing their lifestyles and studying their daily activities. Agee's intensely subjective, at times autobiographical writing and Evans' stunningly honest images of the faces, bedrooms, and clothing of individual farmers living on a dry Alabama hillside lead the reader/viewer on a lyric journey to the limits of direct observation. As a series, Evans' photographs seem to have elucidated the whole tragedy of the Great Depression; individually, they are intimate, transcendent, and enigmatic, as in this portrait of the farmer-patriarch Floyd Burroughs.