Title: A Lesson Before Dying

Photographer: Walker Evans
Author: Ernest J. Gaines
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Designer: Archie Ferguson


Image Title: Negroes' Church, South Carolina 1936
Photo Genre: Documentary
Book Genre: Novel
Group: FSA

For the cover of this Knopf edition of Ernest J. Gaines' classic novel about prejudice and racial injustice in the South, designer Archie Ferguson has chosen a rather generic, if elegant, visual metaphor for book content in one of Walker Evans' FSA photographs of Negro churches. Compare this to the somewhat heavy-handed symbolism of Doris Ulmann's 'Bell Ringer 1930' (also made in South Carolina) on the Vintage paperback edition (here).

I have placed this particular image of Evans' in the 'Multiple Uses' category, indicating that it may be found on more than one book cover. In truth, however, the picture on Albert J. Raboteau's Slave Religion is probably from another negative, made within an hour or so of this one, while Evans' camera was still on it's tripod. Although the framing in each is identical, the shadow on this variant is less steep, indicating that the sun was a bit lower in the sky. There is also a subtle change in the cloud formation. Evans routinely made more than one negative of a subject.

Multiple Uses :