Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Walker Evans took this photo of Floyd Burroughs of Hale County, Alabama in 1936.  A sharecropper and father of five, Mr. Burroughs let Evans live in his home for several weeks, not knowing that Evans was going through his personal effects and papers while the family was working in the fields.  He was not told that his family's pictures and story were going to be used in the now famous book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  Floyd Burroughs was not even given a copy of the book which misidentified the family as the Gudgers, although Evans did send Christmas presents for a few years.  I don't think we can call that anything but exploitation, but the book did ultimately do some good.  Three generations later, the Burroughs descendants still express their anger at the way their grandfather was treated. People who knew him say that Floyd Burroughs had steely blue eyes that looked right through you.  I first saw the picture while taking a college sociology course in 1970, and if I'm being truthful, I will just have to go on and say that something made me fall a little in love with that earnest, probing face.  And I still feel that way 50 years later.  



  1. I agree with his descendants...the man and the family were exploited. I have seen this picture before, too, but knew nothing of the background.

    1. What's amazing is that people still go to that part of Alabama today, looking for that family . . . and people there still know exactly who they are talking about. Exploitation and a form of immortality, all at the same time?

    2. I guess anything is possible. And I agree with you, he IS handsome.