About photobooks – old and new.
Title: Many Are Called
Author: Walker Evans
Introduction from James Agee
Published in 1966, by Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, Boston
4to: black and white photographs, black cloth, printed dust jacket.
Although “Many Are Called” was published only in 1966, the photographs were shot from 1938 to early 1940s, on one single subway line, the Lexington Avenue subway line. Some of these pictures had been published in The Cambridge Review in 1956 and in Harper’s Bazaar in 1962, but Evans waited a bit longer to publish the whole set, in order to preserve the privacy of the subjects. All photos were shot secretly, as Evans hided the camera in his coat, barely letting the lens sticking out. Evan’s decision in keeping those who were photographed unaware of it, was motivated by the desire of catching authentic expressions while the “guard is down”.
As nicely described by James Agee, the several millions of anonymous subway passengers is not a homogeneous mass composed of similar human beings. It is rather the opposite, each one of these human beings has distinctive racial and social backgrounds, but also unique existences and experiences that have shaped their inner selves more deeply concealed. Intrigued by these idiosyncrasies, Evans captures in these pictures, moments of suspension and introspection, during which the subway passengers inadvertently reveal profound aspects of their inner world.
The title comes from the book of Matthew “many are called, but few are chosen”, suggested by Alice Morris, who had already collaborated in Evans’ previous book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”. In Many Are Called, Evans also used an introductory text written by James Agee in 1941 for this specific set of photographs. In the meantime Agee died and Evans decided to dedicate this book to him.