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A Face in the Crowd: 1936

March 1936. "Photographer's window of penny portraits. Birmingham, Alabama." 8x10 acetate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

March 1936. "Photographer's window of penny portraits. Birmingham, Alabama." 8x10 acetate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

the Matriarch of Mama's Family

Now we know what Mama Harper looked like before Eunice was born.

Reading the facial expressions

in this arrangement is like playing the musical notes.

On the side note, brings back memories of an embarrassment not recognizing the person in the "glamour photo", enlarged and proudly hung on the wall.

White hat

Thought I could resist, but I can’t. Second grid-box-of-15 down, on the left, woman in the light-colored hat in the upper right. I’d like to hear her story. She looks like she keeps interesting diaries.

My Mother

I was hoping to see my mother here. But I don't know what she looked like and I don't know if she was in Birmingham. I was only 2 years old at the time, and she died when I was 4.


... but maybe not surprising that, In Birmingham and of all the portraits seen here for a penny, not a one shows a black person as the subject.

Photo Bombed!

I love Mr. Higginbotham's special guest appearance at the very bottom! Although these are wonderful photos, I'm haunted by the thought of how abruptly every one of their lives will change in about five years.

Row 10, Column 12

The look that every grandmother gives you, before you run.

Middle group on the right

Lower left hand corner. Picture looks as though it could have been taken yesterday. That young woman would be pretty in any generation.


I'd rather have a conversation with the person at the bottom of the page. Tell him to be more careful or find a different job (if he could).

Or have a conversation with the oldest person (what looks to be a grandfather with granddaughter; appears a couple of times). Like to find out what life was like for him when he was his granddaughter's age.

I Can't Be Sure

But I think that might be my Uncle Lester under the bottom half of the I. Or not.

Thought Bubbles?

Oh gee, if I had a few weeks of boredom I mght enjoy putting a thought bubbles on each of these ... so many expressions!

Let's face it

Even with the world of photographic subjects being what it is (limitless), for fascination factor, it's hard to beat the arrangement of features and range of expression present in the human face. Whether pretty or plain, dignified or downright diabolical, no matter the age, race, gender, or economic strata, the permutations are as irresistible as they are numberless. So long ago! And yet we see ourselves, or those we know, in these vintage visages.

I'm drawn to the lady in the top right of the lower left set. She appears again in the bottom row of the same set, second from right. I'd love to have a conversation with her. If she's not available I'd like a play date with the baby pictured twice in the fourth set from the top, far right.

A professional "selfie"

They look better than a selfie any day of the week. Another thing I hate is that people's professional headshots now are just cropped images of themselves sitting at a cubicle or in the car. It does not look right.

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