Fotomuseum Winterthur | Saturday, 16.01. – Sunday, 14.03.1999

W. Eugene Smith – The Great Reportage Photographer (1918–1978)

W. Eugene Smith is well-known, but who was he really? Was he the prophet of committed photojournalism and photo-essays for Life magazine? Was he an illusionist of the real, whose photographic productions undermined the cult of objectivity in the eyes of his contemporaries? Or was he perhaps a martyr of photography willing to fight and fight again so that photographers’ images and creativity received their due, something denied them by the press of the day?

This exhibition and the book which accompanies it explore the myth of W. Eugene Smith, show his war photography, his reportages for Life (on Albert Schweitzer, Great Britain, Spanish Village etc.), his major essays on the industrial city of Pittsburgh, on Haiti and the mercury disaster in the fishing village of Minamata. It also presents a dark-poetic Smith – in his unknown “Views from the Windows”. Smith knew how to play with the shadow, the shadow with which he covered his images, the consciously dramatised view, the black “without which one could not see the world” (Aragon).

The exhibition was curated by Pierre Bonhomme. Realisation in Winterthur: Urs Stahel. A cooperation with the W. Eugene Smith-Archive at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona, the Mission du patrimoine de la photographie, Paris, the MacManus Galleries, Dundee, the Palazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia, and the Museu nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.