Portrait of a Baby by Walker Evans, 1936.

November 26, 2006


The small baby is lying on a piece of
white linen: A square with a crease
down the middle, lightly crumpled,
but clean and set against a sky of
darkly slanting floorboards.
The child is covered over by another
square piece of white linen –
completely covering its head and face.
The shape of its body is lightly outlined
and poking from the bottom there are
two legs (one bent at the knee) and a
closed fist. One foot is dirty but its toes
are like tiny balls of snow. The other is
decorated with a bandage. It is a hot day.

Ref: ‘Squeeky Burroughs Asleep
Hale Country, Alabama, Summer 1936, Walker Evans.’

12 Responses to “Portrait of a Baby by Walker Evans, 1936.”

  1. Bice said

    Bleak, stark, gripping in it’s meticulousness. Where did you uncover this work and photo?

  2. Fascinating piece of prose to go with the hauntingly stark photo by Walker Evans. Excellent, Lydia.
    much peace, JP

  3. Thanks:)

    I saw the photo, along with many others by Walker Evans, at a big retrospective of his work at the International Arts Centre in Aberystwyth. The photos were all so gripping I just had to say something about them. I got to wondering how the pictures might be expressed in words and the dead/sleeping baby poem is one of my resulting answers.I’ve got two more to come…once I’ve reviewed the notes!

    Interestingly enough, Walker Evans really wanted to be a writer. He was obsessed with James Joyce (a contemporary of his) and reflected that as a young man, if he couldn’t write like Joyce, he didn’t want to write at all. Seeing as he went on to be one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, I’m kind of glad JOyce put him off!

  4. Bice said

    Well done Lydia. Your words enhance and haunt this picture.

  5. Dana said

    I’ve never been able to write a poem based on a photo. Never.

    *feels a little jealous*

  6. bookbinds said

    This is a very haunting and powerful image!

  7. The writing style mirrors the starkness of the photo. Any other style would have clashed – well done!

  8. joann said

    is this baby sleeping? or? its kinda yeah……

  9. The ‘squeeky burroughs asleep’ would suggest so…but that itself could be a euphenism. I like it being unclear. Thanks for reading:)

  10. rick mobbs said

    I always hesitate before taking a sleeping child picture. It is the sleeping child/death fracture that makes me pause.

  11. Jo Twist said

    hey Lydia

    good sonnet … like the cold blooded description …

    hope yr enjoying the warm Carribbean …

    xxx Jo

  12. Hampton Rhodes said

    I came across this entry in an effort to identify the child in the photograph. I think it’s important to appreciate the circumstances that Mr. Evans is trying to convey addition to the composition. What forces and elements went into creating that disquieting and staggering moment? In his 1936 Fortune Magazine project, Walker brought art to journalism in the best and most profound way, and if we want to remain the beneficiaries today, we need to examine and learn.

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