Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Walker Evans took this photograph in March 1936, labeling it "Negro House/New Orleans, Louisiana." The location of the multi-unit wooden structure is unknown as there do not appear to be any discernible street numbers. The box columns and louvred shutters are typical New Orleans features. The nitrate negative resides in the Library of Congress [digital id cph 3g01793].

I recently came across the copy print below in the SEAA's Miscellaneous Photographs Collection as "unidentified." It seems fairly certain that it was taken just moments before the LC image; the fellow in the wheelchair having departed the porch in the later photograph. The General Outdoor Advertising Company's brand new Heinz billboard in the SEAA photograph is quite a contrast to the battered tenement.

Photographs housed in the SEAA frequently represent individual structures in a portrait-like fashion, any sense of surrounding context out of the camera's frame. Researchers' inquiries often have us wishing we had more representations of vistas, street scenes, the urban context for the structures. Sometimes we do, more often we don't.

Image upper: Walker Evans. Negro House/New Orleans, Louisiana. March 1936. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Image lower: Walker Evans. Unidentified street/New Orleans, Louisiana. March 1936. Copy print (presumably from an LC negative). Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.


Anne-Marie said...

As an archival student, I am wondering how such inquiries impact your collection development ("Researchers' inquiries often have us wishing we had more representations of... the urban context for the structures.") Do you ever seek out photography collections or would you be more likely to accept a collection if it had more such shots?

Keli Rylance said...

Alan Lathrop, who recently retired from the Northwest Architectural Archives, and I recently had a conversation on this topic... my quick answer to your questions is "yes" but of course it is more involved that that.. if you would like an elaboration, just email me