W. Eugene Smith’s photography



W. Eugene Smith’s photography

(Jose R. Lopez/NYT Institute) 

I’m sure if I called myself a frustrated photographer I wouldn’t be doing the art justice. I am by no means an expert photographer or photojournalist, but I deeply admire the art. Anyone can take a photograph, but only a few can make it truly good.

On Friday, the students of The New York Times Student Journalism Institute were given a tour of the photographer W. Eugene Smith’s archive, most of it original prints, at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

The students stared intently at the photographs, often lingering for several minutes on a frame. My personal favorite: a photograph of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It shows soldiers crouched in the corner of the foreground behind a mound of mud. But in the distance, behind the barren trees and smoke-covered ground, an enormous dark cloud — an explosion — draws the viewer’s eye.

It is one of those photographs I never truly understood was real. I envisioned it as a fantasy, a barren land formed only from my experiences watching gritty war films like “Paths of Glory” (1957) or “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930). But it was real, and the photograph made it so.

Smith draws the viewer directly into the photo and frames the fragility of the human body against the destruction of the explosion. This level of access, risk and realism encompasses true photojournalism.

And it makes me jealous.

— James Wagner


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: