Organized by the Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House, Florida
“I have some pictures tonight, and will have more tomorrow…”
—Walker Evans, from a handwritten note to Ernest Hemingway
These cryptic words, from Evans, the great American photographer, to Hemingway, the great American writer, are part of a mystery that is only now coming to light. A friendship between Evans and Hemingway began in Havana in May 1933. The three weeks they spent together in Cuba left a lasting imprint on both men. The events they witnessed, the political upheaval they observed, and their numerous late-night discussions persuasively affected both of their sensibilities and powers of observation for the rest of their lives.
And yet, the question remains: what became of the pictures? Part of the story is well known. During their sojourn in Havana, the two men met in the evenings at bars around town to discuss the current political situation and share their respective worldviews. A thirty-three-year-old Hemingway had arrived in Cuba from Key West, Florida, to fish and work on various manuscripts. Evans, four years younger, came to take photographs for The Crime of Cuba, which was severely critical of the Cuban dictator Machado. At one point, Hemingway, who was staying at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, provided Evans with sufficient funds to extend his visit for an additional week. One story has it that Evans, fearing that he was being watched by the Cuban dictator’s secret police and afraid that they would confiscate his pictures, gave the prints to Hemingway for safekeeping. Newly discovered documents indicate that this story, as apocryphal as it may sound, is true.
These never-before-exhibited photographs, teamed with newly found Hemingway letters, photographs from family albums, and artifacts from private lenders will form the heart of this new exhibition. Museum visitors will be able to walk into the world of Hemingway and Evans through re-creations of several photographs. The Havana market square, with its shoeshine stands and street vendors, will come vividly to life. Scenes of Key West during the Great Depression will also serve as a backdrop for the words and works of these two influential cultural figures. It was during this period that Hemingway wrote To Have and Have Not, his only full-length novel set in America. Many of Evans’s photographs are directly related to scenes in this book.
This exhibition will help expand our understanding of the relationship between these two men and animate the world in which Evans and Hemingway lived, the events they experienced together, and the impact each had on each other’s creative style.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 50 photographs, 20 objects, and various exhibit elements
TOUR DATES: January 2004 - June 2008
SUPPORT MATERIALS: Audio tour in English and Spanish
CREDITS (all works by Walker Evans)
Parque Central II (Sleeping man), 1933, gelatin silver print (top)
Citizen of Havana. 1933, gelatin silver print
Courtyard kitchen, 1933, gelatin silver print
Harbor view with a masted boat, 1933, gelatin silver print
Havana: Country family, 1933, gelatin silver print
Havana fruit stand, 1933, gelatin silver print
Landscape with house, 1933, gelatin silver print
Old Havana house front, 1933, gelatin silver print
Tenement window, 1933, gelatin silver print