Who: William Eugene Smith was an American photographer who studied photography briefly
at the University of Notre Dame, IN, in 1936-7. He began working as a freelance press
photographer in 1935, and he rose to prominence as one of the great photojournalists on the staff
of Life magazine during World War II. W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) is considered one of
the masters of modern photojournalism. He created some of the most poignant images of war
ever made. Smith's photo essays chronicling social injustice deeply moved the American public.
His images of the devastating effects of mercury poisoning in Japan were some of his most
Why: When Smith's father committed suicide, newspaper accounts of the incident greatly
distorted the actual circumstances. This made him question the standards of American
journalism. Smith vowed to become a photojournalist, applying the highest standards to his
own career. He was determined to seek absolute personal honesty in his own documentary work.
What: WHAT: Used cameras from a Minox to a 4 X 5 press camera. In most of his work,
however, he used 35 mm cameras.
Where: He was born in Kansas, and went to college in Indiana. Most of his pictures were
from WW2 and Japan.
When: He started taking pictures when he was 14 and took most of them through out the
“W. Eugene Smith. WORLD WAR II. The Paciﬁc Campaign. 8 July
1944. Battle of Saipan Island. Wounded US Marines.”
“USA. NYC Harbour. July 1956. Nun waiting for survivors of SS
Andrea Doria, an Italian ocean liner which collided with another ship
near the coast of Nantucket. The survivors were brought to New York
“USA. North Carolina. Ku Klux Klan meeting. 1951. Hooded crowd
with leader pointing to Smith.”
“USA. Circa 1938. During a game of American football.”
“USA. American boxer Sugar Ray ROBINSON. Circa 1940.”
1971 02 1972 - Minamata, Japan.
This picture shows effects of long term environmental industrial
mercury poisoning on the local population.
1972 - Minamata, Japan
“Pouring its wastes into the air as well as the waters, the Chisso
chemical complex dominates the city of Minamat Waste chemicals,
dumped into the bay, worked their way up the food chain to the people
of the city and caused what has come to be known as Minamata
“This may well be the ﬁrst environmental pollution photojournalism.”
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