Many Are Called
Yale University Press (2004) (first edition: Houghton Mifflin, 1966)
Chosen by Tom Williams
Many are Called was first published in 1966 – almost 30 years after Walker Evans had begun making the pictures in 1938. Evans had spent four winters in the New York subway with a hidden camera, photographing people (with the help of Helen Levitt, also soon to become one of the great photographers of the Twentieth Century).
What made me love this book and this work was the fact that someone had cared enough and been crazy enough to make it. Money or fame could not have been a motive. You can only imagine the excitement Evans must have felt when he began to extract beautiful and intimate portraits from the hundreds of frames he was exposing blindly underground.
I’m also a fan of James Agee, whose writing is always direct and passionate. Agee gave the book it's title from Matthew 22:14: "Many are called, but few are chosen". A quote from his introduction: ‘They are members of every race and nation of the earth. They are of all ages, of all temperaments, of all classes, of almost every imaginable occupation. Each is incorporate in such an intense and various concentration of human beings as the world has never known before. Each, also, is an individual existence, as matchless as a thumbprint or a snowflake.’