“Walker Evans and Renewals of American Documentary”

November 2, 2020
Online dialogue

In this dialogue organized by the Terra Foundation, Stephanie Schwartz (Associate Professor in American Art, University College London) and Quentin Bajac (Director, Jeu de Paume) address the legacy of Walker Evans (1903–75) and the renewals of American documentary from the 1960s to the present.

Expanding from her recently published book Walker Evans: No Politics (University of Texas Press, 2020), Stephanie Schwartz takes up the issue of “remakes” as concerns both how the photographer revisited his work throughout his long career, as well as how Evans and documentary reemerged in the 1960s and 1970s through the work of Allan Sekula (1951–2013). Schwartz addresses the multiple temporalities of documentary and influence.

Quentin Bajac, curator of the survey exhibition Stephen Shore (Museum of Modern Art, 2017–18), focuses on the fascination that Shore (b. 1947) has always had for Evans’s work. “If I were to say in the photographic world the one person whom I used as a springboard for ideas and a resource to learn from, it was Walker Evans,” Shore asserted in the New York Times in 2004. More than an influence, Shore prefers to characterize his relationship with Evans in another vein, closer to a sentiment (“a kinship”) or a way of being (“the same constitutional type”). Bajac addresses the many different facets that this relationship has taken throughout Shore’s career.

Together, the speakers address and trouble the issue of “influence,” querying what it means for photography and its histories and thinking about the larger question of what Evans and American documentary might mean today.