Evans did not begin to take photography seriously until he returned to the United States several years later. He then became what some authors have described as a “hungry eye.” With a borrowed Leica and a hand-held, roll film camera, Evans became engaged with all the things there were to be had out of the camera, and became compulsive about it. In the early 1930s some of his images were used to illustrate an edition of The Bridge by Hart Crane and The Crime of Cuba by Carleton Beal. In 1935, Roy Stryker of the Farm Security Administration hired Evans as part of a team of photographers commissioned to document life in rural America during the Great Depression.
Although most of his work had been of places rather than people, his direct, documentary style was well-suited to the task. Evans believed it was the responsibility of the artist to record reality, no matter how harsh. In the summer of 1936 Evans took a leave of absence from the FSA. Working for Fortune magazine along with James Agee, the pair extensively documented sharecropper families in Hale County, Alabama. Though their work was rejected by Fortune it was later published as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The images in the book, along with the work produced for the FSA, make up the most compelling and famous collection of Evans’ work. His lager work involved photographing subway riders and people in the streets using a camera hidden inside his jacket. Without control of lighting and framing, he attempted to document the purest record of the moment. This series was later published in the book, Many Are Called. …the matter of art in photography may come down to this: it is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the defining of observation full and felt.