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So much for material matters. Immaterial qualities, from the realms of the subjective, include: perception and penetration; authority and its cousin, assurance; originality of vision, or image innovation; exploration; invention. In addition, photography seems to be the most literary of the graphic arts. It will have - on occasion, and in effect - qualities of eloquence, wit, grace, and economy; style, of course; structure and coherence; paradox and play and oxymoron. If photography tends to the literary, conversely certain writers are noticeably photographic from time to time - for instance James, and Joyce, and particularly Nabokov. Here is Nabokov: “... Vasili Ivanovich would look at the configurations of some entirely insignificant objects - a smear on the platform, a cherry stone, a cigarette butt - and would say to himself that never, never would he remember these three little things here in that particular interrelation, this pattern, which he could now see with such deathless precision...” Nabokov might be describing a photograph in a current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Master writers often teach how to see; master painters sometimes teach what to see.


Evans, Walker. "Photography." Quality Its Image in the Arts.  Eds. Kronenberger, Louis and Marshall Lee.  1969. 

See Also

Lexicon Entries

Intentional Arc
The Red Ink
Activities of a Certain Kind

Works and Days

Wildcat Hill






Tags: walker evans

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