West Virginia Living Room


Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)




Gelatin silver print


Support/Overall: 7 1/2 x 9 1/2in. (19.1 x 24.1cm) Framed/Mounted: 20 1/4 × 16 1/4 inches (51.4 cm × 41.3 cm)


Purchase with funds from the Atlanta Foundation

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Evans made this photograph during the first year of the photography division of the Resettlement Administration (later renamed the Farm Security Administration). The mission of this newly formed government agency was to document the hardships of the Great Depression and the positive effects of New Deal policies. The furnishings of this coal miner’s home are spare and worn; the walls are decorated with commercial advertisements that reflect a prosperity this family was not likely to experience. But this photograph transcends its immediate mission as government propaganda. Rather than a condescending look at poverty, "West Virginia Living Room" captures the dignity of the family. The barefoot boy sitting awkwardly in the chair looks straight into the camera and challenges the viewer. His direct stare shows no shame and asks for no pity.

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