Research Group: on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

18 March

Please join us for a collective reading and discussion of James Agee and Walker Evans’ 1941 photo book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men at Jupiter Woods on Sunday 14th of October, 4pm.

“America is really the natural home of photography is photography is thought without operators.”

Lincoln Kirstein

Over the past year, in collaboration with Jupiter Woods, Freya Field-Donovan and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe have been running a research-discussion group into James Agee and Walker Evans’ photo book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men which depicted the living condition of Alabama tenant farmers during the Great Depression. Focused on the contested relationship between photographic and textual documentary materials, our conversations so far have focused on questions of access and understanding, performativity within graphic representation and how past contexts can be brought to bare on our present political climate. 

Having previously focused on James Agee’s writing this session will look almost exclusively at Walker Evans photographs. Many of Evan’s images from this book have circulated individually as icons of 1930s photojournalism, but in this context they existed as serial representations of a specific time and place. As contemporary subjects we largely consider ourselves to be “image literate” yet the mutability of photographs deny singular interpretation. This session aims to make a discursive space for photographs, what is a reading group of images? Do we infact ‘read’ images? And what is at stake in the split in the descriptive logics of text and image?

At this meeting we will display the photographs so that we can tactility interact with them, in the hope that this will engender a conversation about editing as a creative and productive technology. While the context of the material is specific and we will pay attention to the history of these images, we encourage you to bring your own research interests to the conversation. 

Please see attached docs; the first discussion group invite from March, as well as a text by Evans that describes his photographic process. Previous knowledge / attendance is not necessary so feel free to come to the group unprepared. There will also be wine. 

We hope to see you there, apologies for the short notice, please RSVP at

& Kat.