“I do think that fly fishing and photography are connected in that you have to be hopeful. And in both places, what you set out to accomplish is not what you do accomplish, but it’s the experience that matters, as does that desire to keep going.” 

McNair Evans studied anthropology in college (and received his MFA from the Academy of Art University) and worked as a fly-fishing guide in Yellowstone, where he started taking night classes at the local art center. The following winter, he drove a van from Virginia to a remote area of Guatemala to photograph the Chuj Indians, where, he says, “I was as exotic to them as they were to me.”

This understanding of the rhythms of the land and the strands that beckon recalled, for Evans, the connection of the rails to his family heritage. Knowing of a railcar that belonged to his grandfather, he discovered that it was restored and took a trip there by train. “It was such a powerful experience that I immediately knew what my next project would be.”

In Search of Great Men at San Francisco City Hall is a grand chronicle of Evans’ long loops around the country on Amtrak, a wonderful place to engage because, as he notes, “there’s a lot of time.” A mix of still photos and the hand-written journals of passengers he has met, the exhibit portrays and tells stories about loved ones, aspirations and life transitions.

“My upbringing taught me to treat everyone with respect, that we are all equal. I tend to fall in love with everyone I photograph. I find something that I empathize with and go through their journey with them, and after 15 days, I find myself emotionally wiped.”

Gwynned Vitello

Originally published in the May, 2016 issue of Juxtapoz, available here and on newsstands worldwide.