McNair Evans is a nationally exhibited artist, an active guest lecturer, and represented by galleries in San Francisco, CA and Asheville, NC. McNair grew up in Laurinburg, NC where he worked repairing crossties and tracks for a 32-mile freight railroad. He discovered photography as an anthropology student at Davidson College while recording the oral history for an Appalachian family in Madison County, NC. His projects explore themes of shared experiences and identity amidst forces of modernization, and his photographs present personal, often autobiographical, subject matter in unconventional narrative form. His work is recognized for its literary character and metaphoric use of light.
His first monograph, Confessions for a Son (Owl & Tiger, 2014), explored the lasting psychological landscape of his father’s sudden death and the family’s once successful agricultural business. While the contents of these pictures [abandoned businesses, totemic objects, and portraits of family and friends] were highly specific to McNair, his use of light and evocative symbolism to convey metaphor emphasized universal themes—the complex relationship between fathers and sons, the strength of family bonds, and the disappearance of an American agrarian way of life. This subsequent project follows that trajectory by combining original photography with first person, passenger-written accounts. The lives and stories of those traveling on passenger rail illuminate universal tensions between the individuals and societal expectations.
McNair is the recipient of numerous awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2016), the Innovation in Documentary Arts Award from Duke University (2017), and the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship (2014). His photographs have been featured in numerous publications including Harper’s Magazine, Oxford American, and The New Yorker, as well as on the cover of William Faulkner’s novel, Flags in the Dust. His books and prints are held in public and private collections including the SFMOMA, UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.