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Matinee: 'Here I am. Allie Mae Burroughs.' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

30 April 2022

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 446th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Here I am. Allie Mae Burroughs..

This 5:58 video from Jane Curtis should put a scare into you. What if portraits could talk back? What if the photographer didn't have the last word. What if they couldn't silence their subject?

This is what.

Allie Mae Burroughs was photographed by Walker Evans in 1936 when he was working on a story for Fortune magazine which the publication subsequently declined to publish. The photos along with essays by James Agee were eventually published in the book Let Us Praise Famous Men in 1941.

The portrait of Burroughs became quite famous. And in later years she was interviewed about Evans and Agee, who stayed with her family while they were working on the story.

She liked Agee, who was neatly dressed and personable, but wasn't keen on Evans who didn't say much. But she didn't like either one of them after she found out they had gone through the family's personal effects when left alone in the house. And she only found that out reading the book, a copy of which they never sent her.

Oh, it gets worse.

"I never did like this old picture," she snears. Well, nobody likes their own portrait. But if Evans were alive to hear his portrait talk back to him, he would be smarting.

But never mind them, she says. "Here I am."

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