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Svetlana Alpers Buch, Walker Evans


BIt seems that a complete cycle has come. The American art historian Svetlana Alpers described 17th-century Dutch painting as a pioneer of photography in her book “Art as a Description” in the early 1980s, and now turns to Walker Evans , His works gradually became the visual memory of the United States. The twentieth century will. German art historian and photographic connoisseur Wolfgang Kemp wrote the foreword for Alpers at that time, and he has now translated and written the postscript. Alpers believes that some characteristics of Dutch painting and how it distinguishes it from Italian traditions are now reappearing, such as the surface of the world, the diversity of viewpoints, and last but not least, the eyes of collectors.

One of the planned discoveries of “art as description” is a form of image, which violates the norms of Italian art, and found that images are “things that replace the eyes, making the frame and our point of view uncertain” . It is the image that gives way to the world.

Impersonal existence

If Alpers is now fascinated to explore the special features of Walker Evans, and her unique ability to “have an eye”, then this has to do with the appearance of letting the world go first. The premise of this is that the photographer understands the act of photography as one of the disappearance of the artist. “Look at me, I’m gone now,” Walker Evans once yelled to a friend, using a sharp formula to summarize the basic principles of his attitude as a photographer. Alpers was so fascinated by her that she quoted it five times in the book—not out of carelessness, but as the main theme.


Svetlana Alpers: “Walker Evans”. United States. Life and art.
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Image: Schirmer / Mosel Verlag


The second sentence of Evans was quoted by Alpers again. Alpers wrote himself in the third person and clarified the first sentence: “Evans was and will be a moment of the past for any present. Interested.” A man can read her book as a spelling of the photographer’s double self-description. Evans has one eye, precisely because he appears as an impersonal existence in his photos. “Armed with transcendence,” he accepted the world and chose more from his objects than he chose. His vision and his world must be transformed into a plane. To this end, he also used the technical possibilities of the camera, as Alpers explained convincingly. He sees the world from an 8 × 10 perspective—and then disappears into it like a Chinese painter in a famous legend.



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