W. Eugene Smith Public Issues Artist

Where is Eugene Smith from? Where did he grow up? What time period?

William Eugene Smith was born in December 30, 1918 in Wichita, Kansas. His mother Nettie was a photographer, Smith later became interested in photography at the age of 14. Soon enough he was offered scholarships, to the University of Notre Dame, for his photos.

"A Walk To The Paradise Garden" - Due to the war, he received many wounds, that costed him two painful years of hospitalization and plastic surgery. During those years he took no photos, and it was doubtful whether he would ever be able to return to photography. Then one day in 1946, he took a walk with his two children, Juanita and Patrick, towards a sun-bathed clearing, where he took his very "first photo".

What happened in his life that was significant? Memorable?

When Eugene moved to New York city after college he worked for different companies that really shaped his career. He later became a freelance photographer, during this time WWII started to erupt, making most of his work revolve around WWII. He was able to experience and capture the, the atmosphere’s conditions, and the people's feelings during this event, and what’s more accomplishing than that?

"Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath"- First housecats in Minamata, on the west coast of Kyushu in Japan, went berserk, jumping into the sea. Then it began to affect local fishermen, whose lips and limbs would tingle and then become numb. Their speeches slurred; many died. Women gave birth to deformed foetuses and blind children. It was termed Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Caused by methyl mercury in industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory from 1932 to 1968, the disease claimed thousands of lives surreptitiously while the government and company did little to prevent the pollution.

What is the overall meaning of his artwork?

Smith wanted his photographs to make a difference. A lot of his work changed people’s point of views on the world, he stated, “I think the photographer should have some reason or purpose. I would hate to risk my life to take another bloody picture for the Daily News, but if it might change man’s mind against war, then I feel that it would be worth my life.” Which shows how devoted he is to making some type of change with his photographs.

"Dewey Defeats Truman" - In the picture is Truman’s famous ‘whistle-stop’ train–a special “Magellan” train chartered by the Democrats–which made 201 stops on the route to reenforce his image as people’s president. (In fact, both Dewey and Truman did their Presidential campaigning by train. This was the last Presidential election to use this form of transportation; since then Presidential candidates have used airplanes to travel.)

More of his work!

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