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W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay

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This is the first in-depth study of one of the most important photojournalists of the postwar period in America. Examining the antecedents for the photo-essay, a genre that Smith perfected, Glenn Willumson closely analyses the four works that he produced for Life magazine, and for which he is best known: 'Country Doctor', 'Spanish Village', 'Nurse-Midwife', and 'Man of Mercy'. In his study of these works, now acknowledged to set the standard by which the photo-essay is judged, Willumson also argues that Smith's ...

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Overview

This is the first in-depth study of one of the most important photojournalists of the postwar period in America. Examining the antecedents for the photo-essay, a genre that Smith perfected, Glenn Willumson closely analyses the four works that he produced for Life magazine, and for which he is best known: 'Country Doctor', 'Spanish Village', 'Nurse-Midwife', and 'Man of Mercy'. In his study of these works, now acknowledged to set the standard by which the photo-essay is judged, Willumson also argues that Smith's essays are significant cultural documents. An engaging account of Smith's career, W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay reproduces his work as it originally appeared in Life, making it accessible to a new generation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Smith virtually defined the photo essay with his memorable 1948 Life magazine piece ``Country Doctor.'' He continued his artful blending of words and pictures in three further Life assignments--``Spanish Village,'' ``Nurse Midwife'' and ``A Man of Mercy'' (on Albert Schweitzer)--but quit the magazine in 1954 to protest what he perceived as loss of ``authorial control'' over his work. He won additional acclaim as a freelancer, most notably for his reportage on Minimata, a Japanese town whose inhabitants were deformed by industrial mercury poisoning. Willumson, developer of the photography collection at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Santa Monica, Calif., analyzes in depth the production of and reaction to Smith's major photo essays, reproduced here in their original Life format. Admirers may be shocked by the author's ample documentation of the extent to which Smith and Life slanted research, manipulated scenes and doctored prints to enhance photo-reportage as ``a weapon against injustice.'' Willumson depicts his subject, who died in 1978, as a sensitive loner romantically attached to social causes and stubbornly committed to long, arduous efforts for excellence. ( Sept. )
Library Journal
No fewer than four major bibliographies and a television documentary about Smith appeared in the 1980s, none of which gave adequate treatment to his photo-essay projects, done mostly for Life . The reproduction of Smith's photo essays and captions as they appeared in Life , plus Willumson's accompanying commentary, make this book uniquely valuable. The author has researched the conception, political context, and public reception of these essays and analyzes the impact of page layouts, captions, and narrative content. He explores in depth Smith's break with Life over their handling of Smith's photographs of Albert Schweitzer. To illustrate Smith's closeness to his subjects and his influence on Life 's editorial decisions, Willumson has included here some of the primary documents and chronologies of Smith's work. His notes and bibliography reveal the breadth and depth of his background research on each essay, on Smith's life, and on the photo-essay genre. Highly recommended for photography and journalism collections.-- Kathleen Collins, New York Transit Museum Archives, Brooklyn
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521414647
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/1992
  • Pages: 367
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

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