In a 1954 letter to his boss Hedley Donavan at Fortune magazine Walker Evans used the following lanuage to "sell" a certain portfolio idea.

THE BEAUTIES OF THE COMMON TOOL. A dozen or so large, sensuous black-and-white picture studies of hand tools bought in ordinary hardwarw stores. Sensuous is the word. Extremely careful though simple studio photographs. The photographer will assume that a certain monkey-wrench is a museum piece. The camera will drool over this and a countersink and a plumb blob. Abstract volupte. All will be strictly pure design: that is to say, no chiqued-up.

Raymond Lowey or Dreyfus commercial corruptions will be allowed it this show.

In penciled notes he went further.

Time and again a man will stand before a hardware store window eying the tools arrayed behind the glass; his mouth will water; he will go in and hand over $2.65 for a perfectly beautiful special kind of polished wrench; and probably he will never, never use it for anything.

Finally, In an accompanying text for the 1955 Fortune magazine photo spread he waxed even further.

...fine naked impression of the heft and bite in the crescent wrench...

...these basic, common tools stand for elegance, candor, and purity.

Among the low-priced, factory-produced goods, none is so appealing to the sense as the ordinary hand tool. Hence, the hardware store is a kind of offbeat museum show for the man who responds to good, clear 'undesigned' forms.

Aside from their functions—though they are exclusively wedded to function—each of these tools lures the eye to follow its curves and angles, and invites the hand to test its balance.

- bill 10-28-2004 5:47 pm

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