Walker Evans

Subway Portrait
c. 1939–41
From: Subway Portrait Series

Not on view

Between 1938 and 1941, Walker Evans took candid portraits of strangers who sat opposite him on the trains in the New York subway. He concealed his 35mm Contax camera under his coat, a cable shutter release up his sleeve, and the camera lens between two coat buttons. This apparatus ensured that his subjects were unaware that they were being captured on film, but also forced him to give up control of lighting, motion, camera position, and framing. This photograph shows two women—framed by the train window, signage, and a blur of lights—who appear lost in thought as they journey to their destination. As Evans said: "The guard is down and the mask is off: even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors). People's faces are in naked repose down in the subway." Evans took about 600 subway photographs, which he later edited into a book of eighty-nine images entitled Many Are Called. The book was published in 1966, the same year that the photographs were featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Artist
Walker Evans

Title
Subway Portrait

Series
Subway Portrait Series

Date
c. 1939–41

Classification
Photographs

Medium
Gelatin silver print

Dimensions
Sheet: 7 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (19.7 × 24.8 cm) Image: 5 × 7 1/8 in. (12.7 × 18.1 cm)

Edition information
Vintage

Accession number
97.98.2

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee

Rights and reproductions information
© artist or artist’s estate



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