Posts Tagged ‘Oeaan Grove photograph by famous photographer Walker Evans’

Ocean Grove 1932. By Walker Evans

Ocean Grove 2010. By Erik Landsberg

By Charles Layton

The two pictures above illustrate a story of historical discovery. The story involves one of America’s most celebrated photographers, Walker Evans, who is famous for his naturalistic portraits of sharecroppers during the Great Depression.

The story also involves an Ocean Grove photographer of the present day, Erik Landsberg, who is a great admirer of Evans.

“Sometime around 1980,” Erik says, “my wife, Geanna, gave me the Walker Evans book First and Last,” which is a compendium covering the range of Evans’ photography from the mid-1920s through the early 1970s. It includes some of Evans’ lesser-known work.

“At the time, we were living in Hoboken and I hadn’t even heard of Ocean Grove. Thirteen years later we found ourselves living here.”

Having a photographer’s eye, Erik was captivated by the architecture of his “new” hometown.

“At some point, perhaps around 2001, after continued viewings of the book (which has no captions on the pages) and repeated walks through town, including Ocean Pathway, I started to sense a correspondence between some of the book’s images of Victorian houses and some of my more immediate visual experience,” Erik says.

“Researching the captions that appear at the back of the book, I was surprised (and somehow not surprised) to find that an image of two adjacent Victorian homes was captioned ‘Ocean Grove, NJ, 1932.’

“A quick search through town led me back to Ocean Pathway, where I found those same two houses still standing and visually much the same as when they had been photographed by Walker Evans some 70 years earlier.

“I experienced that peculiar sensation of time compressing and expanding simultaneously.”

The other day, at the request of Blogfinger, Erik stood in the same spot where the famous photographer would have stood and photographed those same two houses.

The larger house, on the left, is 9 Ocean Pathway. It is owned by Greg Lotz of Montclair, NJ, and his sister, Ellen Smith. Greg, 52, and his sister grew up in Ocean Grove. “We’ve been in the house close to 30 years now,” he says. “My parents initially bought it.”

The mother and father of Greg’s wife, Sue, live in OG year-round in a house on the other side of Ocean Pathway, the south side.

Members of the Lotz family were not aware of the existence of Evans’ photo until we brought it to their attention. Greg’s and Sue’s son, Griffin, was especially interested because, as luck would have it, Griffin is majoring in photography at the University of Delaware. He has his own website at http://www.GriffLotzPhoto.com. And, by the way, there are some nice shots of Ocean Grove on that website.

A Word About Walker Evans:

Evans was born in 1903 and died in 1975. He was one of several American photographers of his generation — Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White and a few others — who defined photography as both a journalistic and an artistic medium. His Ocean Grove photo is not at all typical of his work. In fact, one wonders if it wasn’t just a throw-away shot that somehow found its way into a book years later.

Evans is best known for a series of portraits of Alabama tenant farmers taken in 1936 and published in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a collaboration between Evans and the writer James Agee.

The woman shown here is Allie Mae Burroughs of Hale County, Alabama. This picture, one of Evans’ most famous, became a symbol of the Great Depression. The man in the second photo is Allie Mae’s husband, Floyd Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper.

Allie Mae Burroughs. Hale County, Alabama. By Walker Evans 1936

Floyd Burroughs and his daughter. Hale County, Alabama. 1936. By Walker Evans

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