Getting to Know American Photojournalist W. Eugene Smith

W. Eugene Smith was an American photojournalist who was active from the 1930s to the 1970s when he passed away. He was, as Ted Forbes states in the video, one of the most prolific photographers of his time. Smith is well known as being a master of the photographic essay, and much of his career was spent on the types of longer assignments that are few and far between in the modern world of photography. His works for LIFE Magazine (including Country Doctor) and later the Jazz Loft Project are some of his most well known and enduring projects. Not to mention he was a Magnum photographer as well.

Smith's dedication to his craft is often described through his battles with the editors at LIFE magazine, and the volume of work he produced. The Jazz Loft Project alone produced approximately 40,000 images. This may not seem like much in the modern world, but these were not exposure tests and digital files, they were film negatives. In total, 1,447 rolls of negatives to be exact.

However, it is in the individual frames that you will see Smith's genius. His essays are near impossible to look at because of their size, but choosing just a few frames from each is enough to see the sort of effort put into the photographs. "Dream Street," a posthumous publication of around 150 photographs from his collection of more than 17,000 photographed during the project, gives us a glimpse into the mind of Smith, and shows that although he was working towards a whole, each and every photograph in the collection is a work of art on its own and worth spending time with.

Ted Forbes' introduction to Smith on his channel The Art of Photography is a very quick but information filled way to get a glimpse at one of the masters of photography. After you've watched the video above, head over to see the follow up videos about Smith's work.

[via The Art of Photography]

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4 Comments
Steven Barall's picture

Smith would move people's eyes around in his photos when he was printing in order get everyone looking in the right direction. He was result oriented and he didn't care how he got there. He was the "creator" of the scenes.

Jeffrey Robbins's picture

Smith was given a latitude that few are given. He had the ability to use the latitude and turn it into wonderful photos.