W (William) Eugene Smith – Born 1918 – 1978 Born Wichita, Kansas
Smith is considered one of the principal masters of modern photojournalism. The distorted newspaper coverage of his father’s suicide made him determined to seek absolute personal honesty in his own documentary work. After a short time on the staff of Newsweek, he freelanced for many leading magazines, including Life, Collier’s, and Harper’s Bazaar, and for the New York Times. He worked with miniature (35 mm) cameras and developed an innovative flash technique that enabled him to produce indoor photographs having the appearance of natural or lamp light.
Smith’s photographic record of events in the Pacific theater of World War II is ranked among the grimmest and most powerful visual indictments of war. Severely wounded in 1945, he was unable to work for two years. The first photograph he made upon recuperation (of his two children walking toward a sunlit area on a wooded path) was chosen as the final work in the Family of Man exhibition (Mus. of Modern Art, New York City; 1955).
From 1947 to 1954 Smith worked full time for Life creating a series of major photo essays, including Trial by Jury (1948), Country Doctor (1948), Nurse Midwife (1951), The Reign of Chemistry (1953), and A Man of Mercy (concerning Albert Schweitzer, 1954). With a Guggenheim Fellowship he created his celebrated Pittsburgh essay (1956). In 1963 Smith began an intensive photographic study of Japan. While documenting the maiming effects of mercury poisoning from factory pollution on the residents of the fishing village of Minamata (1971–73),
he was brutally beaten; as a result he lost his sight temporarily in 1974.
While I wanted to write these short bio’s I just couldn’t even start to come up with this as it is concise, informative, and pretty complete.The only thing that I would add is the fact that Smith left Life Magazine because of how they were using his
images of Dr. Alfred Schweitzer.
Complications from his longterm consumption of drugs, notably amphetamines (taken to enable his workaholic tendencies), and alcohol led to a massive stroke, from which Smith died in 1978. He is buried in Crum Elbow Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, New York. Smith was perhaps the originator and arguably the master of the photo-essay.
Other links to learn more about W Eugene Smith
Also search Google images to see a huge selection of his massive portfolio.
“Quotes” by W Eugene Smith
“Hardening of the categories causes art disease”
“Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.”
“Available light is any damn light that is available!”
“What uses having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness”
“An artist must be ruthlessly selfish.”
Bio taken from Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition