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I sometimes find myself haunted by things I’ve seen, occasionally they are books, left slip away because I felt too poor or too cheap to buy them when I’ve held them in my hands. I still remember holding Petra by Emmet Gowin, Flowers and Trees by Lee Friedlander, and Mine Fields by Bill Burke, all books that have gone out of print and have become essentially unobtainable for someone with my budget, unless they get reprinted.

One book I held and read and remembered is Incognito, a Walker Evans book with an interview with Leslie George Katz with eight plates, a thin, tall book, elegantly printed, but (as I recall) priced at an outrageous $75 when it was released in 1995. I recall sitting in a bookstore somewhere and reading the entire interview, then the extended captions on the plates, and reluctantly putting the book back on the self, somewhat satisfied that I had devoured the book, but disappointed that such a fine book felt beyond my reach.

Peter Koster. Walker Evans

Then a few days ago, I saw a copy for sale on e-bay, advertised for more than the purchase price in 1995 but less than I expected, but I restrained my bidding finger and checked bookfinder, only to discover a copy for sale at a modest $95 from a bookseller, less than the copy on e-bay. It arrived in the mail today, in a big box with lots of padding, shrink wrapped, with an acetate cover, and several uncut pages.

The e-bay description reads, in part, “Aware of the immortal power of words, Walker Evans chose to leave a last will and testament, unmistakable in its clarity, in the form of an interview. He made sure that none of his intended clarity would be lost. This he achieved by choosing a close and trusted friend to collaborate in conducting several recorded conversations and editing them into a carefully articulated credo.” And reading the interview this evening, I had to agree—Walker Evans speaks clearly about the act of making photographs, the meaning of his work, and about “transcendence”, a word I’ve never understood except in the way he speaks of it, a faith in the act of making photographs, resulting in images of something close to magic. “…Eugene Atget … was a kind of a medium, really. He was like Blake. His work was like lightening through him. He could infuse the street with his own poetry, and I don’t think he even was aware of it or could articulate it…”

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