Walker Evans | Billboard, Birmingham, Alabama, 1936 | George Eastman House

No one photographs signs like Walker Evans. The creek painted on the billboard is a playful trompe l’oeil that initially distracts from the photograph’s latent poignancy. Taken during the Great Depression, the enormous, well furnished (if awkwardly rendered) living room on the billboard contains luxuries few could afford. Moreover, the billboard blocks the houses in the background – the dream home supersedes reality. Many of Evans’s photographs document a United States ravaged by the Depression with a complexity his subjects deserve but the subtlety and formal sophistication of this picture is striking.

Ian McDermott, Collection Development Associate