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W. Eugene Smith: "Let Truth Be the Prejudice"

October 19, 1985–January 5, 1986

W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) created images so powerful that they have shaped our perception of recent history. His photographic essays--whether chronicling the daily cares of an individual nurse-midwife, the plight of lepers in an African village, or the many elements which comprise a modern industrial city--established a new mode of in-depth, concerned photojournalism. His vocation, he once said, was to do nothing less than record, by word and photograph, the human condition. The anger and sorrow he felt at the suffering he saw brought out the somber side of his nature, which manifested itself in many of his most famous photographs in which dark areas dominate the plane of the print. Yet he never lost his belief that photography could both present truth and inspire change. His friend and colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson said of his work: "I feel in Gene's photographs something that beats, something that trembles. They are captured between the shirt and the skin; this camera anchored in the heart moves me by its integrity." Smith took his first photograph at age nine at the urging of his mother, who developed the print in her home darkroom. By the age of 15 he was selling pictures to the Wichita Eagle and the New York Times, and before turning 20 he was on the staff of Newsweek. He became famous early in life for his regular contributions to such magazines as Life, Colliers, and Look, and suffered no real eclipse before his death, shortly after completing a powerful, three-year study of the Japanese victims of mercury poisoning. Smith's most famous photographs affected generations of people around the world, though most would not have known his name. This exhibition, the first major retrospective of Smith's master prints, includes such celebrated series as "Spanish Village," "Country Doctor," "Nurse Midwife," "A Man of Mercy," and "Minamata." The exhibition consists of 250 master prints on loan from the W. Eugene Smith Archive at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. After leaving Philadelphia it will travel for three years to museums throughout the United States and Canada.


Philadelphia Museum of Art
International Center for Photography, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Cleveland Museum of Art
Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona

Main Building


Atlantic Richfield Foundation
The Pew Memorial Trust
The National Endowment for the Arts


Michael E. Hoffman
Martha Chahroudi
Leslie Mitchell

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