Many Are Called

Many Are Called
by Walker Evans

Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” immortalized New York City’s subways at the speed of jazz. Walker Evans’s 35-mm photographs in Many Are Called (first published in book form in 1966) did so at one-fiftieth of a second. Using his Contax camera surreptitiously from between the folds of his topcoat, Evans copped over six hundred photos on the Lexington Avenue and Broadway lines from 1938 to 1941. On the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of the subway system, Yale University Press in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art has reissued Evans’s portfolio of subway riders. The book’s eighty-nine pictures are a classic collection of American portraiture.

Walker Evans (1903-75) was one of the giants of twentieth-century American photography. He stood out not only for his craft, but also for the range of his subject matter and the texture of his work. He documented the restless American soul, the impersonalism of American industry, the artistry of the country’s rural buildings and signboards, and the desolation of the Depression-era South. His Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), conceived and executed with James Agee, was a marriage of visual and literary genius that remains unrivaled. Evans’s photographs came to amplify the work of those he admired (Paul Strand, Dorothea Lang, Helen Levitt) and to inspire a generation (among others, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Robert Frank). In fact, it was...

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About the Author

Patrick Jordan is a former managing editor of Commonweal.