Old postcards are not what you would expect to find exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City -- except these came from the collection of Walker Evans, one of the most important photographers in 20th century America.
An Interest In Automobiles
The Met is displaying some of the postcards found in Evans' collection. Why would he have taken to collecting these pieces of ephemera, and did they influence his art?
A Master's Eye
Evans is perhaps best remembered for his photos documenting American life during the Great Depression. His uncompromising, sometimes severe images share an unpretentious quality with the images found on the postcards.
In the Timber Belt in Washington
Met curator Jeff Rosenheim said the postcards reflect the power of the "everyday subject with an economy of means and simple respect. Those were the exact attributes he tried to put into his own work with the camera."
Santa Fe Station, C. 1910
Born in 1903 in St. Louis, Evans began collecting postcards as a boy, long before he picked up a camera. He kept them in shoe boxes. The collection ultimately numbered 9,000.
Cliff House Beach, San Francisco
Postcards become a worldwide fad around 1907 when U.S. postal regulations changed allowing a message to be written on the same side as the address. "Before you had to write your message on the picture side, so you really couldn't say very much," Rosenheim said.
Tennessee Coal, 1920s
At one point approximately 800 million cards were sent in America in one year.
A "Future" New York
Walker Evans called these early postcards "folk documents" -- proud, honest records of America coming of age, with red brick factories, city streets, skyscrapers.
Empire State Express
Evans obsessively catalogued the postcards he collected with categories like "Automobiles," "Trains," and "Occupations," such as a woman putting USDA inspection stamps on hog carcasses.
...And The Downright Odd
There's an extravagant-looking giant cactus ... a man being rescued from drowning ... bizarre-looking scenes at spas.
Morgan City, La.
Rosenheim says Evans did make photographs in the format or style of postcards, but only once deliberately duplicated an actual postcard, of Front Street in Morgan City, La.
Birds Eye View of Lincoln, Neb, c. 1906
Rosenheim says these anonymous postcard photographers documented what was local, simply, in an unsentimental way, and that Walker Evans "hated sentimentality." The exhibition "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard" runs at the Met through May 25, 2009.