Roadside Stand near Birmingham, 1936:
Birmingham Alabama that is, of course - not, clearly, somewhere in the Black Country. It's one of the classic shots from Walker Evans' American Photographs.
There's a nice little Walker Evans gallery here, which allows you to move your mouse over an image to magnify.
“I think in truth I'd like to be a letterer,” Walker Evans reflected in a 1971 interview, when he was a faculty member in graphic design at Yale. By that point his fascination with signs had mingled with his passion for collecting; instead of simply photographing signs—collecting their images—he was decorating his Lyme home with them. Many years before, when Evans was a boy, his father was a copywriter for an advertising agency, a field Evans acknowledged as a new “American profession.” His appreciation for graphic design, and in particular its relationship to architecture is a continuous thread through his long career.
In this example of a roadside farm stand, the building is virtually lost in the signage announcing what is on offer. Even the melons stacked and hoisted out front serve as a kind of non-verbal sign. In other images of signs Evans seems more amused by ironic meanings and double entendres or the abstract shape made by letters and partial letterforms. Here, the message is as straightforward and honest as the services being advertised.