Lot Details

22.9 x 27.9 cm

One image from a powerful photo-documentary series by Smith on Albert Schweitzer's work in Lambaréné, in French Equatorial Africa, for LIFE Magazine: "Man of Mercy," November 1954. Schweitzer's extensive work there (he founded a hospital, acted as surgeon, was a pastor, and had numerous other roles) was aided by his monetary gift of the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received the year before this picture was taken. With the money, Schweitzer began Lambaréné's Leprosarium, pictured.

W. Eugene Smith
American, b. 1918, d. 1978

"Photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes - just sometimes - one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought." – W. Eugene Smith

William Eugene Smith was born in 1918 in Wichita, Kansas. He took his first photographs at the age of 15 for two local newspapers. In 1936 Smith entered Notre Dame University in Wichita, where a special photographic scholarship was created for him. A year later he left the university and went to New York City, and after studying with Helene Sanders at the New York Institute of Photography, in 1937 he began working for News-Week (later Newsweek). He was fired for refusing to use medium-format cameras and joined the Black Star agency as a freelance.

Smith worked as a war correspondent for Flying magazine (1943-44), and a year later for Life. He followed the island-hopping American offensive against Japan, and suffered severe injuries while simulating battle conditions for Parade, which required him to undergo surgery for the next two years.

Once recuperated, Eugene Smith worked for Life again between 1947 and 1955, before resigning in order to join Magnum as an associate. In 1957 he became a full member of Magnum. Smith was fanatically dedicated to his mission as a photographer. Because of this dedication, he was often regarded by editors as 'troublesome'.

A year after moving to Tucson to teach at the University of Arizona, Smith died of a stroke. His archives are held by the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. Today, Smith's legacy lives on through the W. Eugene Smith Fund to promote 'humanistic photography', founded in 1980, which awards photographers for exceptional accomplishments in the field.[magnumphotos]

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Publication: This image is reproduced in "Master of the Photographic Essay: W. Eugene Smith" on page 133. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. The jazz loft project : photographs and tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965 / [compiled by] by Sam Stephenson. New York : Knopf, 2009. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. Dream street : W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh project / edited by Sam Stephenson. New York : Center for Documentary Studies in association with W.W. Norton, 2001. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. W. Eugene Smith / with an essay by Jim Hughes. New York, NY : Aperture Foundation, 1999. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. W. Eugene Smith : photographs 1934-1975 / edited by Gilles Mora and John T. Hill ; with essays by Gabriel Bauret ... [et al.]. New York : Harry N. Abrams, 1998. Willumson, Glenn Gardner. W. Eugene Smith and the photographic essay / Glenn G. Willumson. Cambridge [England] ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1992. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. W. Eugene Smith / introduction by William S. Johnson. New York : Pantheon Books ; Paris : Centre national de la photographie, c1986. Maddow, Ben, 1909- . Let truth be the prejudice : W. Eugene Smith, his life and photographs / illustrated biography by Ben Maddow ; afterword by John G. Morris. New York City : Aperture : Viking Penguin [distributor], c1985. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. W. Eugene Smith, master of the photographic essay / edited with commentary by William S. Johnson ; foreword by James L. Enyeart. Millerton, N.Y. : Aperture ; [New York, N.Y.] : Distributed by Harper & Row, c1981. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. Minamata / by W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith. Tucson, Ariz. : Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, c1981. Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978. W. Eugene Smith, early work. Tucson (843 East University Blvd., Tucson 85719) : Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1980.
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2001/02 Dream Street - W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Photographs - Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh, USA; ICP, New York, USA; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, USA
1998/99 W. Eugene Smith - Hôtel de Sully, Paris, France; Fotomuseum Winterthur,
Switzerland; Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain;
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, UK; Pallazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia,
1991 W. Eugene Smith - Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris, France
1974 Let Truth Be the Prejudice - Jewish Museum, New York, USA;
American Institute of Architects Centennial Exhibition, National Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C.
  • Ships From: New York, USA
  • Shipping Dimensions: 9 x 11 in. (22.86 x 27.94 cm.)
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