American photographer and photojournalist best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans's work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8×10-inch camera. He said that his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that are "literate, authoritative, transcendent." Many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums and have been the subject of retrospectives at such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or George Eastman House.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Evans took up photography in 1928 around the time he was living in Ossining, New York. In 1930, he published three photographs (Brooklyn Bridge) in the poetry book The Bridge by Hart Crane. In 1931, he made a photo series of Victorian houses in the Boston vicinity sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein. In May and June 1933, Evans took photographs in Cuba on assignment. While there, Evans drank nightly with Ernest Hemingway, who loaned him money to extend his two-week stay an additional week. His photographs documented street life, the presence of police, beggars and dockworkers in rags, and other waterfront scenes. Fearing that his photographs might be deemed critical of the government and confiscated by Cuban authorities, he left 46 prints with Hemingway.
An exhibition, Walker Evans: American Photographs, was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the first exhibition in the museum devoted to the work of a single photographer.
In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title Many are Called. In 1938 and 1939.
Evans died at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1975. In 1994, The Estate of Walker Evans handed over its holdings to New York City's The Metropolitan Museum of Art.