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Tuesday, 04 September 2012


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I had missed this book somehow along the way, and it seems like it will be exciting to view/read. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'm also anxious to read the piece on the comparison between Evans and Frank. Much obliged!

So happy to hear this!

It should be noted that "The Americans" was first published in France (as "Les Americains") and that Robert Frank is Swiss.

However, it still qualifies as a "seminal American photography book" due to its subject matter, and because it was created while on an American Guggenheim grant. Also, the intention was to publish it in the U.S. first, but it was considered too radical. When the French edition was well received, perceptions in the U.S. changed and it was published there, minus the significant amount of text that the French edition had.

Got mine! Mike, i was really missing your periodic books recommendations!

[Thanks Marino, but note that this is Ken's post, not mine. --Mike]

There is also a slim book published in 1981 by Papageorge called:

Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence

The book has nice comparisons of Evans and Frank's photos, side by side. There are copies available for as low as $75

The new typeface may be superb and the printing sublime, but there is something about the gravure printing which was used in the original editions of both photographer's books, which I think is untouchable.
The Grove press edition from '59 is still the best version of The Americans to look at, and Steidl has all of the worlds technology at his disposal. I have several copies of the 1938 edition of American Photographs and will hold off judgement till I see the new version in person...

Great to see this in print in such high quality (and for such a good price). I have placed an order. I have seen a lot of his work over the years and he is up there among the early pioneers. Lots to learn from looking at his work.

Since you mentioned Bill Brandt, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquired many of his photographs and have a permanent biographical exhibition which delves into his philosophy and methods.

I really love one of his quotes:

'Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. Everything must be dared and tried.'

If only people would take that to heart and stop trying to constrain photography within their own comfort zone.

It's a real bargin compared to Sherrie Levine !

Had not been aware of this book but I am a sucker for high-quality street photography from decades past. Ordered this, along with books by Vivian Maier and Ara Guler that I had my eye on for some time. I expect to have hours of enjoyment out of these purchases.

@ Matt Weber: "There is also a slim book published in 1981 by Papageorge called:

Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence"

Same essay in the Aperture book, sans comparative photos, at a fraction of the cost. The book you noted is actually a catalog for a 1981 exhibit (by the same name) at Yale. Papageorge wrote the essay for that exhibit and catalog.

Just bought one! I've been waiting for a new reprint for awhile.

I passed on the recent "Books on Books" / Errata Editions version of American Photographs, since their stuff always looks like just a photocopy of the original (and originates in a photobook-collecting fetishism that I do not share). And the pictures are usually too small as well.

But does anyone have both, and thus can offer a comparison?

As a young (25 year old) photo-enthusiast I took Ken's advice and ordered a copy. Amazon is already saying a 1-3 week wait, so I purchased from The Book Depository. I'm really looking forward to it, I could stand to be more familiar with Walker Evans and it seems like a great addition to my meager book collection.


Ordered one - why on earth not!

Frank's book is perhaps an outsider's view as a European and a Swiss, and so I always feel it should be contrasted, rather than compared with Evans.

Curious and totally irrelevant, but Evans married a Swiss girl - a fact many potted biographies seem to overlook

Ordered from Bookdepository in the hope that the commission will help Mike buy the Nex 7 he's lusting after as I'd like to get his review on it.


Just ordered two, one for me, one to offer.

Thanks for the heads up,


I picked up a not-so-fine copy of the first edition of American Photographs a few years ago for $100. I enjoy (carefully) leafing through the first edition, but it will be great to see the duotones in this edition.

Great article Ken!

Walkers Evans is one of the most significant (if not the most significant American photographer) photographers of the 20th Century. I stumbled onto your article this morning by accident as I was promoting TOP to a group of photographers I have coffee with every Tuesday morning.

Walker Evans had a huge influence on me as a young photographer and to this day, some of his iconic images are in my mind's eye on a daily basis. Thank you again.

Ordered mine this afternoon. My photography library has grown from your recommendations, Mike. It also has a couple volumes from Ken's recommendations from elsewhere. It is good to now have both sources of reliable information available at one location.

I thought that last paragraph was speculative and irresponsible.

"I thought that last paragraph was speculative and irresponsible."

No. It might not be prescient in its particulars, but holistically what he's saying is that you won't be sorry to have this whether you decide to keep it or not, and whether you like it right away or not; and I think that's fair enough, on both counts.

The 50th Anniversary reissue was around for a number of years as MoMA gift store fodder, but since it went away it's become about a $100-150 book; not worth a fortune, but certainly more painful than $23.10 if you want/need to acquire one.

Like Ken, I really don't see a downside to adding this to your library if you have any desire to. It's like adding Beethoven's Fifth to your music collection...you may not love it, but it's still not out of place.


I first encountered Evans' work in the late lamented Creative Camera (Coo Press UK,mid-sixties onwards) where I learned to look into photographs more than the approach of my local camera club encouraged. I currently get my fix from Apertures' Masters of Photography volume of his work but I can't resist the thought of leafing through American Photographs on quiet evenings this autumn! It's ordered!

The Amazon price is $14 less than picking it up at MoMA in person with the members discount, so I suppose there is an arbitrage opportunity standing in front of MoMA selling them.

(or if you want to irresponsibly make your life interesting in some unpredictable way, make up some Sherrie Levine dust jackets for it and really clean up!)

The Amazon price is now $21.00 as of 4:40 PM EST.
I bought a copy for myself and my buddy and the earlier higher price.

Thanks for the tip, Mike.


Parked Car, Small town main street is one of my favourite photos.

Ordered ... Thanks for the heads up.

The Tod Papageorge essay Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence is online here too.


referenced in this blog entry


And a slightly surrealistic apropros to this discussion: Sherwin Rivera Tibayan's The Histograms of Robert Frank's The Americans.

Make of it what you will (hint ... it drags left right like an iPhone)


If you are thinking WTF(!?!) then read this



How can I resist?

Bought one through your link. Hope you get a few pennies out of the sale!

Thanks Ken. I am going to order a copy right now.

Got mine too. Great deal! This morning (9/5) on Amazon through TOP Links, the book cost $21. Wow!!! Thanks for the review and the tip Ken!

Can you let us know how many (collectively) we bought ?

"Can you let us know how many (collectively) we bought?"

Sure. Yesterday alone (i.e., I won't see today's orders until tomorrow), 631, of which something like 80 have been shipped (their stock probably sold out as they're now waiting for more copies from the publisher).

If you ask me at the end of the month I can give you the total for the month.

When my copy comes I can give you a rundown on the 75th anniversary edition compared to the 50th Anniversary edition.


Kirk Tuck Blog:
Kenneth Tanaka
August 30, 2012 10:25 AM

"This is an excellent example of a competently-captured photograph that becomes lost without context... It's Exhibit A in the thesis that photographs, in fact, do not really tell stories in the absence of language or richer context. Eh?"

By Kenneth Tanaka
"American Photographs features one of the most austere designs you'll encounter in a photo book. Taking readers on a rather lyrical tour of America and Americans during the Great Depression, its 87 large format, captionless black-and-white images are presented one per page with the image on the recto faced by a blank numbered page on the verso. Captions for images are listed separately at the end of each of the book's two sections."

OMG! I ordered this book and I don't know if I will be able to make any sense of it! I'll have to keep flipping back and forth between the pictures and the captions so I'll get the context.

For 58 years I knew how to enjoy looking at pictures, and now I'm just and old confused man.

Ordered yesterday, just arrived 2:20 pm EST. Worth the wait!

Seriously beautiful.


Thanks. Just ordered it and the HCB book you recommended recently.

Mike, I am one of those 631. Thanks for the posting

Was on my front porch this afternoon. I can't afford too many extras, but this will be great. Thanks Kenneth for the heads up.


Did I tell you how much I like this site ?

Thanks Mike and Ken. I ordered it mmediately yesterday morning through your link and specified standard shipping. Believe it or not, it was here when I got home from work today. The printing looks very very nice. Thanks for the recommendation.


Twenty five years ago I spent a summer having my small town library ordering everything they could find on Walker Evans. Along with Gordon Parks they were my favorites from the FSA era.

Today I ordered the Walker book along with the Kertesz book I never got around to ordering last year.

Ordered 5 copies.

One for myself, one for an aged uncle who grew up during the period represented, and 3 as an investment.

Thanks for the reminder, had this on my wishlist but the prompting at the end made me put it in my basket asap. I think the impact of Evans's work can be a slow burn; I remember not making much sense of this book on first acquaintance (still don't to some extent, I guess), but then I looked more closely at some of his individual shots over time and the extreme clarity of his vision hit me.

Thanks once again Ken for pointing out a most interesting book that I'm definitely going to order.

Just arrived.
It looks so good in its shrink wrap, I'm not sure I can bring myself to open it. May have to get another copy....

cb's question and Ken Tanaka's reply about the print quality of the book and the printing of Evan's pictures brought to mind various things.

Most strikingly is the memory of looking at an FSA era print of Evans' 'View of Morgantown, West Virginia'

It was small and much more dense with information than any 'oversharpened digital forgery' I have seen. Secondly that by my quick count over 60% of the photos in 'American Photographs' were taken under the auspices of the FSA which means that these photos are in the public domain and in most cases available at the Library of Congress.

This of course means that you can print your own renditions (aka digital forgeries) of Walker Evans FSA images much like Mike did six years ago with his Dothrea Lange Print Offer. In fact printing a suite of Walker Evans images is one of my current side projects and such a close study of his work is proving very instructive. Here is a picture of what I am up against :

Lastly a few years ago the New York Times had a short piece Walker Evans. Or Is It? about contemporary Walker Evans prints and the philosophical issues raised by them.

Apparently, it is now sold out all over the planet. Book Depository is out of stock, and even Amazon Japan has sold all of theirs a day after this was posted. If I ever publish a photo book, I know where I want it reviewed--assuming that it was a good review and not "Somebody needs to take the camera from this clown."

Got mine today. Thanks so much for pointing this out. I would've surely missed it otherwise. To me this is what photography is all about: can I let this simple scene extract something more out of myself than the bare facts?

Sometimes, but never like this.

Mine arrived today.
Compared with the 50th anniversary edition (both the hard-cover and paperback), the quality of the printing is virtually identical, with the newer one having slighty darker prints (more ink in an earlier printing?), so some of the images appear "better" and some "not." In both cases they are all superb.
The newer book is a little thicker than the older one, so I presume that heavier paper stock is used.
So, what the heck am I doing with three copies of this terrific volume? I've got to figure which two friends have already got their Christmas presents waiting.

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