Esteemed thinker: Walker Evans

PH00604 Driving was once an activity that required a person to use two hands and two feet; one hand to shift and the other to steer, one foot to clutch and the other to break and accelerate. It was an activity that required the driver to pay attention to the sound of the motor, when to engage the car to another gear and when to stop….to operate the vehicle sufficiently meant the driver needed to know why and what they were doing. Those who were not competently trained did not get very far, finding themselves chugging along at a speed that was irritating even to the vehicle itself for the engine ached until it was put into the correct gear. Those who did not clutch appropriately found themselves stalling out with an abrupt and incredibly awkward thwart. Even steering the car took two hands and opening a window was laborious; all that cranking.

Fast forward to today where operating a car is so easy that some drivers often find time to shave or put on make-up at the same time. In fact, in order to manipulate a car takes less coordination or concentration than riding a bicycle. Cars of today do not even require the turning of a key; all it seems to require to get to your destination is a ridiculously simple act of … “mash and go”….

But then, it makes you wonder… who decided to design a car that is so automatic that it requires obviously very little from the driver. Not to belabor the subject, but maybe it wasn’t so bad when the driver actually had to be part of the driving process….


Today’s post introduces the esteemed thinker: Walker Evans (1903-1975 ) Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Evans began his career as a painter and writer however graduated into becoming one of America’s most prominent photographers. Evans recorded everyday life, creating a visual catalogue of contemporary America. During the Great Depression he worked for the FSA documenting the hardships and poverty of the era, with an emphasis on the rural south.

As part of his collection, I bring to you his photo, Wrecked Cars in Automobile Junkyard, Tampa, Florida (1941) His composition and subject matter is a visual reminder…driving is not for the “inattentive”!

2003.564.26

Second photo: Portrait of Evans (1941)

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