Last Updated July 13, 2018

W. Eugene Smith

American (Born 1918 - Died 1978 ) FREE LISTING
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Influence: Historically influential or important

Eugene Smith was a famously uncompromising and idealistic American photojournalist who photographed combat in World War II and went on to specialise in the photo-essay, most notably in his three-year Pittsburgh project. Intense and at times obsessed with his work, he helped to establish the photo story and the power of black and white printing.

Born in 1918, in Wichita, Kansas, his mother was a photographer and his father was a businessman. While young he was given encouragement by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Frank Noel. At age 18 Smith started working for local newspapers in Wichita. While working for these newspapers Smith started photographing the environmental devastation during the dust bowl, images that he later burned as he felt that they had failings in technique and insight.

After a short time working for Newsweek Magazine, Smith spent three years shooting assignments for Life Magazine. During World War II he covered conflict predominantly in the South Pacific theatre. He photographed the invasions of Saipan, Guam, and Okinawa. On Okinawa Smith was severely wounded in the head, chest, and back by shell fire. After a painful two years recovery, in 1947, Smith returned to Life Magazine where he shot many photo essays.

In 1955, having resigned from Life Magazine, he joined Magnum Photos, and began an ambitious photographic project documenting the city of Pittsburgh. During the 1960s, in addition to his photography Smith began teaching private classes in photojournalism.

In 1971 Smith and his new wife moved to Japan, where they began a four year project documenting the plight of the inhabitants of a small fishing village called Minamata who were suffering the effects of mercury poisoning caused by the local chemical company. During a press conference dealing with the disease Smith was attacked and severely injured by security guards employed by the company.

In 1977 Smith had returned to the USA, and was teaching photography at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. He was still recovering from the effects of the attack at Minamata, and from a lifestyle that had involved drug and alcohol abuse. In late 1978 he suffered a stroke and died.


See the photographer's website for further information about these grants. The W.Eugene Smith memorial fund awards two grants.

The W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography is presented annually to a photographer whose past work and proposed project, as judged by a panel of experts, follows the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s concerned photography and dedicated compassion exhibited during his 45-year career as a photographic essayist.
For 2018, the amount of the grant will be $35,000. An additional $5,000 in fellowship money will be dispersed, at the discretion of the jury, to one or more finalists deemed worthy of special recognition. Awards will be presented in a ceremony held in New York City on October 17, 2018.
There is a $50 fee for grant consideration.

In 2018 the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund announced a new grant, the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Student Photographers to encourage and support students whose photographic work renews the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s humanistic and compassionate photography. Special consideration will be given to work that promotes social change and that embraces new technologies and image distribution, and that seeks to integrate the tradition of photography and social change with contemporary practice.

The annual $4,000 grant may be used to complete a work-in-progress. Recipient of the Grant will be selected by a jury appointed by the the Board of Trustees of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund in Humanistic Photography.

To apply for the Grant, a fee of $1 is required. The submissions must include a scan of a current student identification card. Please en...


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