William Eugene Smith

“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

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, 1971

This iconic image by photojournalist William Eugene Smith depicts a Japanese mother bathing her daughter who is deformed from Minamata disease. The disease is a type of mercury poisoning and the photograph was used to raise awareness of it internationally.

Spanish Wake, 1951

Smith was a WW2 photgrapher and sought to point out the folly of war by humanising it. Here is an image of a man on his death bed in Spain during the reign of the dictator Franco. Around him are women dressed in veils and headscarves–some are his family. The mood is sombre but what seems most interesting are the different reactions on the womens’ faces. The younger woman in the middle at the front seems to be pleading for his life– unacceptant perhaps–she stares right at death. Older women in this piece look aversively to the side–almost shamefully–definitely pensive.

Nun waiting for survivors of the Andrea Doria, New York City Harbor, 1956

What is this nun thinking? Clutching a teddy bear her expression is indescribable. She is fearful yet hopeful; attentive and childlike; dedicated but lost. This is what I most like about Smith’s photography, it captures what is not describable through language but seeking a moment of humanness which is ever fleeting and forever unknown.

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