Book Review: Still/3

I enjoy most surprises, and Still/ 3 was a complete surprise because, before discovering it in a local used book store, I'd never heard of it. Still/ 3 is a catalogue of photographs by the students of Yale photography professor Walker Evans. Evans, of course, is known for his photographs during the depression, and best known to me for his images in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the recently released Cotton Tenants: Three Families ( two books I plan to review later). 

Published in 1973, Still/ 3 is interesting both because of Evans' students' images, which sometimes are brilliant and other times show visions that are still emerging, and because it opens with an interview of Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Frank authored one of the most iconic books of the 20th century, The Americans (with an energetic introduction by Jack Kerouac), though I suspect this interview took place while Frank was in his video phase. 

Evans, Frank, and the students all share a spirited discussion about photography, whether art was as vibrant in 1973 as it was previously, and what the future held. When asked of his influences, Frank replied

I think that the people who influenced me the most were the abstractionist painters I met through Herbert Matter. And what Influenced me strongly was the way these painters lived in the '40s and early '50s - their struggle. It wasn't so much what they did, but that they were people who really believed in something they did and got very little support for it. It impressed me tremendously that they could be so believing in what they did.

What I found most interesting in the discussion was the optimism of Walker Evans and the pessimism of Robert Frank. Given the inequities Evans saw in the '30s, I expected him to be the pessimist, not Frank, yet it's Walker Evans who's the optimist. For more on Frank, watch this interview

http://youtu.be/bt97Jomj5nw .

Beyond the interview, the book also contains the images from twelve of Evans' students. The images that stood out for me were from Carol Ries, Joe Kamuck, James Eisenman, Harrison Branch (it was a landscape of Branch's that convinced me to buy the book before I discovered the Evans/Frank interview), and Jerry Thompson.

If you can find it, I recommend getting a copy of Still/ 3. The images alone are worth the price, even without the Walker Evans/Robert Frank interview.