William Eugene Smith (December 30, 1918 – October 15, 1978), was an American photojournalist, renowned for the dedication he devoted to his projects and his uncompromising professional and ethical standards. Smith developed the photo essay into a sophisticated visual form. His most famous studies included brutally vivid World War II photographs, the clinic of Dr Schweitzer in French Equatorial Africa, the city of Pittsburgh, the dedication of an American country doctor and a nurse midwife, and the pollution which damaged the health of the residents of Minamata in Japan.
William Smith was born in Wichita, Kansas in December 1918. Smith graduated from Wichita North High School in 1936. He began his career by taking pictures for two local newspapers, The Wichita Eagle (morning circulation) and the Beacon (evening circulation). Smith eventually moved to New York City and began working for Newsweek. He became known there for his incessant perfectionism and thorny personality. Smith was fired from Newsweek for refusing to use medium format cameras, and joined Life Magazine in 1939 using a 35mm camera.
As a correspondent for Ziff-Davis Publishing, and then again Life Magazine, Smith was often on the front lines in the Pacific theater of World War II. He was with the American forces during their island-hopping offensive against Japan, photographing U.S. Marines and Japanese prisoners of war at Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In 1945, while he was photographing battle conditions on Okinawa, Smith was hit by mortar fire. After recovering, he continued at Life, until 1954