"'The only reason this photograph has any value is, an instinct is touched in it. "This is for me." It's like the meaning of a person. The singular importance of this spoke to me that way. It's uproariously funny, and very touching and very sad and very human. Documentary, very real, very complex. All these people had composed in front of the local studio camera, and I bring my camera, and they all pose again together for me. That's a fabulous fact. I look at it and think, and think, and think about all those people...'" - Walker Evans (Art in America, March/April, 1971; reprinted in Eakins Press, Walker Evans, Incognito, n.p.)
Beyond Evans' instinct to stop and photograph the window of a local photo studio in Savannah, it is not surprising that he was attracted to his subject. A passionate collector of postcards, ephemera, signs, street debris, Evans was clearly fascinated by this "accidental" collection of faces. Like many of his contempories in Europe, Evans often "appropriated" images from the street, as in this "readymade" photocollage. Like Alabama Tenant Farmer Wife (Allie Mae Burroughs) (see lot 139), Penny Picture Display, an icon of American 20th Century photography, has become one of his most celebrated works from the mid 1930s. It has been widely reproduced and exhibited, including in his one-man-show in 1938 and retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1971.
In John Szarkowski's essay in the 1971 MoMA catalogue he illustrates Evans' influence on not only later generations of photographers, such as Robert Frank and Harry Callahan, but on the Pop Art painters of the 1960s. Taken further, the typologies and portraits of contemporary photographers such as Bernd and Hilla Becher or Thomas Ruff refer back to the structure, documentation and frontality of Evans and are made possible by his revolutionary steps in the 1930s.
Early prints of this image are considered rare.