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[Many are Called]
7 x 10 in (17.8 x 25.4 cm)
Swann Galleries - New York
Courtesy of Swann Galleries (Auction, Oct 15, 2007, #2124, Lot 93)
With the Lunn Gallery archival hand stamp and numerical notations "VI 30,"126" and "N670," in pencil, on verso, in an unknown hand.
Many are Called, 31 (variant).
Evans used a concealed camera to take more than 600 photographs of passengers on the subway between 1938 and 1941. Photographer Helen Levitt often sat next to him on the train as his assistant, decoy, and to track possible subjects.
As any subway rider knows, the protocol is simple: one turns one's thoughts and eyes inward. For the perspicacious photographer, this often facilitates an unedited glimpse of someone's true persona. Evans, fascinated by this phenomenon, wrote, "The guard is down and the mask is off . . . even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there is a mirror), people's faces are in naked repose down in the subway." Evans's transgressions were twofold: by unabashedly staring at his subjects (through the lens) and subsequently sharing a stranger's intimate moments with others. Yet, the fact that Evans chose not to use text alongside the photographs maintained a kind of privacy in the relationship between subject and onlooker.
A thoughtful artist, Evans carefully considered his options as he sought to avoid the artificiality of studio portraiture. "My idea of what a portrait ought to be: anonymous and documentary, and a straightforward picture of mankind." He sat with a camera under his overcoat, the lens between a gap in the buttons, and a cable release running down his sleeve to a bulb in his hand. Alice S. Morris, a literary editor at Harper's Bazaar, who had been involved with Evans and his subway project since its inception, is credited with the title which comes from a parable of the marriage fears in Matthew 22: "Many are called, but few are chosen." Evans had suggested other titles such as "A Season in the Subway," "The Passengers (Hidden Camera in the New York Subway)" and "Twenty Thousand Moments under Lexington Avenue: A Superfluous World."
A book was released in 1966 and accompanied Evans's show of 40 photographs at MoMA. However, it did not generate much interest. Today, this body of work is recognized as a pioneering contribution to contemporary approaches to documentary photography and voyeurism.