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Eugene Smith – Supporter of “Subjective” Photography

Eugene Smith (William Eugene Smith), famous in the genre of documentary photography, today is known throughout the world. Throughout his life, he was convinced that photography was able not only to tell about current events, but also to change the world. He was ready to take risks for the sake of a good shot, and many of his works are confirmation that this risk was justified.

The American photojournalist did not seek to maintain objectivity during the filming. He tried to convey a subjective view of the situation, to reveal to the viewer his idea of ​​it. He felt responsible for the information he covered before the viewer. Eugene often had conflicts with employers who did not consider it necessary to publish some of the work, or wanted to give out prints that, according to the photographer, did not deserve it.

Often as a result of controversial situations, Smith stopped working with publishers, despite the fees that they were willing to pay for the pictures. Duty to the reader for him has always been more important than material reward.

Smith’s coming to photography

Eugene Smith was born in Wichita, located in Kansas (USA). It happened on December 30, 1918. The creative potential of the boy was noticeable while still at school. However, at that time he was more interested in aviation and wanted to become a pilot. For the first time, Eugene took a camera at the age of 14 in order to photograph planes. After that, he realized that he had found his vocation and his love of aviation had faded into the background.

Immediately after graduation (1936), Smith began to learn the basics of the art of photography and hone his skills. Unfortunately, from that period of his life there were practically no pictures left. Striving for perfection in everything, he simply burned photos that he considered unprofessional.

After leaving school, Smith entered the prestigious University of Notre Dame, where his abilities were discerned by teachers at the entrance exams. The university administration developed an individual program for a talented student, but the study did not captivate the young man. The program seemed too simple. He also realized that management planned to use his abilities for commercial gain and stopped attending school after the first semester. At the same time, Smith began to collaborate with Eagle and Beacon.

Eugene Smith Professional Occupation

Soon the young man moved to New York, where he managed to get the post of full-time photographer in the then-young edition of Newsweek. Celebrity to Eugene came quickly enough. The photographer always sought to do his job professionally, and he did it. It is worth noting that Smith managed to find an individual style, and his photographs became recognizable even without the signature of the author. Collaboration with Newsweek was not long. Smith did not want to work with medium format cameras, which were impossible to take high-quality images. This was the cause of the conflict.

Since 1939, Smith has partnered with Life Magazine. Two years later, the Great Patriotic War began, during which Eugene worked as a photojournalist for the editions of Ziff-Davis Publishing and Life Magazine. Being at the forefront, for the sake of a good shot, he often took risks, as a result of which he was once seriously injured. A long two-year treatment and 32 operations awaited him. Doctors put the talented photographer on his feet, and he continued to work with Life Magazine.

In 1950, the editors instructed Eugene to cover the elections taking place in England. Despite the large amount of footage, only a few shots got into print. The reason for this was the photographer’s sympathy for Clement Attlee, which contradicted the negative attitude of the editorial staff towards the Laborites. However, this did not stop Smith from expressing his opinion.

The next conflict with the management of the company, which was associated with the selection of material while working on reports about A. Schweitzer, occurred in 1955. As a result, the photographer left his post. In the same year, he signed an agreement with the international photo agency Magnum. In 1971, Eugene, not afraid of danger, covered the issue of mercury poisoning in Japan, where he was subsequently severely beaten. The pictures taken at that time became known throughout the world. In 1978, a talented documentary photographer died.

An unrivaled documentary photo master

Throughout his life of 59 years, Eugene Smith has learned what wealth and poverty mean. However, the material state was the last thing he paid attention to. Also, the photographer did not seek universal recognition and encouragement from employers. He was fascinated by the process to which he gave himself all over. Sometimes even the family went by the wayside. The photos of the documentary photojournalist show his rebellious disposition.

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