he is pretty often considered the best "photo journalist" of all time. his main focus was on documentary photographic essays, mostly with an humanistic aspect: sickness, working class, war... but as i just found out also jazz photography.
Originally Posted by Chazzy
his style in pictures could be described as dramatic, high contrast prints of stunning quality, gleaming whites in mostly dark surroundings, lots of chiaroscuro and an occasional slightly kitschy lighting (enhanced by local bleaching).
always dramatic, always compassionate.
This wasn't a regular issue of the magazine--more like a compilation of articles, updated with new material. I looked it up and it was Special Issue #11 of Photo Techniques, "Mastering the Black and White Fine Print," and it also includes an excellent article on the technique of local bleaching by Bruce Barnbaum that provides a few suggestions on how to control it, avoid drips, and such.
Originally Posted by phritz phantom
Thanks very much, guys. My knowledge of documentary photography is spotty.
There is fantastic biography book: W. Eugene Smith : Shadow & substance : the life and work of an American photographer / by Jim Hughes.
There is no much technical details in it, but story of his life is unreal!
The best book on Smith I've read is titled "Let the Truth be the Prejudice". This book goes deep into his personality and somewhat into his photographic technique. I'll check it out again this week since I have other materials to drop off. I didn't finish the book, but here off the top of my head are things that I recall about Smith in this book:
He had a huge record collection and insisted on carting around as many records as he could as he traveled around. Listening to music was one of his greatest passions.
He once spent a brief stay in a mental institution in the late '50's for going out in public stark naked.
He would occasionally call up his son in the middle of the night and threaten suicide. His son would get out of bed, get dressed and go to Smiths place and stay with him until he cried himself to sleep.
Smith was, without a doubt, a photographer of enormous skill and compassion for his subjects. He is infamous for his complete stubbornness in how his photographs were to be used. He probably was the first photographer to insist on complete control of the editing, and layouts of his work in the magazines. Judging by the letters he wrote to his family, he was also an exceptional and articulate writer as well. I'll post some more later this week after I check out the book again.
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Originally Posted by Chazzy
Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand
IMO, if there is one photographer who deserves a properly done retrospective book today, it is E.Smith. I have three of his books, the big "The Camera as a Conscience", the Pittsburgh project and the small book by Phaidon. I have probably browsed through several others.
"The Camera as a Conscience" has a lot of historical information but the choice of photographs leaves me confused. At the end of this book is a chapter about Smith's printing skills where two versions of the photo "Madness" are compared, an unmanipulated work print and a finished print. The difference is stunning of course. But then, the whole book seems to consist of mainly work prints where Smith's printing just doesn't show. Still, I think it is a worthwhile addition to a library just for the historical stuff.
The Pittsburgh book is I think a disaster. Again, the printing lets it down.
The only book which goes some way to show Smith's printing skills is the tiny Phaidon book. A publisher should put that quality into a much bigger (size+content) retrospective book.
i just got this through ebay. from the u.s., might take some time to arrive.
Originally Posted by email@example.com
ah, thanks for describing that one. i thought this was a picture-only book of the series on albert schweitzer.
Originally Posted by marcmarc
all this does sound a little like all the uppers made his moods a little unstable. has his jazz photography ever been published? i'd really like to see some of those.
i absolutely agree about the retrospective book. i'd love to have a big book with all the images (or a good cross section) and some quality info.
Originally Posted by ooze
the only book that's still regularly available around here is the pittsburgh one. but i'll see if i can dig up "camera as conscience" and the phaidon one too.
I've never seen original Smith prints but IMO I'm not convinced he was a great printer.
Much of his work appears very contrasty and he wasn't shy about manipulating prints or adding
components to them. For two examples, The picture of Schweitzer with the hand in silhouette in front
of him, the hand is not in the original negative and there are at least two variations withe the hand in different positions.
The print in the Spanish village has had the eyes of at least one woman both brightened and changed the direction in which she was looking.
To my mind this isn't so different than combing different negatives in Photoshop. This is more important when you consider the sort of work he did.
A motorcyclist is the only one who understands why a dog rides with it's head out the window.
"I had an idea once, it died of loneliness"--George
well, as a photographic purist, you certainly look at it this way. i'm definitely no purist, so i'm fine with it. and the contrasty look is a matter of taste. i love it. most of the b/w stuff i see is too flat and greyish in my eyes.
Originally Posted by John Koehrer
in the article in "darkroom" he explains the story behind the schweitzer image. due to a a bad lens and the light coming towards the lens, the bottom part of the image was fogged. but he absolutely wanted the image as the cover piece, so he didn't throw the negative out, but had to print it. he said, he printed the original once, but it was so much work, that all later copies are from a copy negative.
i'm fine with the image manipulation, since i find the outcome to be stunning and on the other hand smith had to work quick and with available light. i think in "death scene" he overdid the "articificial light direction" a little, but i don't mind it at all, because it fits perfect. looks just like a caravaggio.