W. Eugene Smith
The American photojournalist W. Eugene Smith revolutionized the photo-essay form with the works he published in Life magazine between 1948 and 1956. This monograph reproduces images from six classic sequences of this era: Country Doctor (1948), which portrays the selfless and sometimes frustrating work of a doctor in rural America; Spanish Village (1950), perhaps the most powerful photographic study of 1950s Spain; Nurse Midwife (1951), which examines the life of a black woman in the American south; A Man of Mercy (1954), which documents Dr. Albert Schweitzer's humanitarian work in Africa; Pittsburgh (1955), Smith's first freelance assignment, previously unpublished; and Minamata 91971–1973), a photo-essay recording the effects caused by a mercury spill in a region inhabited by Japanese fishermen. Together, these six classic documents of twentieth-century photography affirm Smith as an impassioned conscience, with practical ends in mind for his work: “I put such passion and energy into my photographic work that, more than their being just for art’s sake, I prefer to think that my photographs push someone to action, to do something, to solve something,” he one wrote. This volume includes previously unpublished writings by Smith that elucidate his field techniques and guiding principles, as well as the memoir “A Walk to a Paradise Garden,” which tells the tale of his most acclaimed photograph.
W. Eugene Smith (1918–1978) was born in Wichita, Kansas. After graduating from high school he moved to New York and found work with Newsweek, who famously fired him because he refused to use a medium-format camera. Smith joined Life magazine in 1939, and accompanied American battalions on the offensive against Japan. In 1955 he joined Magnum, and throughout the following two decades produced numerous key works of photojournalism. Smith died from a stroke in 1978.