Imaginary Landscapes Eggs Urban Zen Stop Signs Cape Cod Spring in New York In the Loft With W. Eugene Smith Portraits

IN THE LOFT WITH W. EUGENE SMITH

 

While working on my MFA at Pratt Institute I had the honor of working with legendary photojournalist, W. Eugene Smith. I was 24 years old and very green, but I knew that I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph Smith, a master – if only I could find the courage to ask his permission. I was intimidated because he was such a giant in photography, but I did muster the courage and he surprised me when he said, Yes! Gene allowed me access to photograph him virtually any time and anywhere, including when he was at his most vulnerable and hospitalized. He did not pose, he did not advise, he did not question. He did not even ask to see my photographs. What I learned was so valuable it continues to be an essential part of how I approach photographing people. Gene was a human being, first and foremost. He was not the person I had imagined or expected him to be, because in my mind I had elevated him to an imaginary hero based on the famous photographs he had created. It was only after I accepted him as a person, and began to love him for who he really was —warts and all — that I began to take meaningful photographs.