Published: October 2, 2001
: Carnegie To Exhibit W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Photographs
PITTSBURGH, PENN. – “: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Photographs,” an exhibition of work by one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest photographers, will be on view at Carnegie Museum of Art from November 3 through February 10. “” brings together 195 photographs from Smith’s epic, unfinished essay of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s. This is the first time these photographs – which Smith considered the finest of his career – have been exhibited together.
In 1955, having just resigned his high-profile but stormy post at Life magazine, Smith was commissioned to spend three weeks in Pittsburgh and produce 100 photos for noted journalist and author Stefan Lorant’s book commemorating the city’s bicentennial, Pittsburgh: Story of an American City. Smith stayed a year, compiling nearly 17,000 photographs for what would be the most ambitious photographic essay of his life, his intended magnum opus.
Smith said that his Pittsburgh photographs were the most vital expression of his life’s work, and yet he judged the project to be an utter failure. In the mid-1970s, while delivering what would amount to almost a self-eulogy – he would die only a few years later – Smith recalled the Pittsburgh period of his career:
“I think that I was at my peak as a photographer in, say, 1958 or so. My imagination and my seeing were both, I don’t know…’red hot’ or something. Everywhere I looked, every time I thought it seemed to me it left me with great exuberance and just a truer quality of seeing. But it was the most miserable time of my life.”
“” yields a provocative and illuminating perspective on Smith’s creative process and an invaluable portrait of Pittsburgh at the pinnacle of its industrial might.
After closing in Pittsburgh, the exhibition will be on view at the International Center for Creative Photography in New York City from March 29 to June 16, 2002; the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, from July 13 to September 29, 2002; and a smaller version of the exhibition is tentatively scheduled to be on view at the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, Durham, N.C., early in 2003.
An accompanying publication, : W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project, a 176-page book edited by Sam Stephenson and illustrated with 175 duotone photographs, is available. is a Lyndhurst Book, published by W.W. Norton & Co. in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Along with daily, docent-led exhibition tours, “” offers a variety of complementary special activities, including two symposiums. The first, “W. Eugene Smith,” on Saturday, November 10, focuses on Smith’s life and his role in the development of the modern photo essay. It will be moderated by “” curator Sam Stephenson and will feature several speakers, including panelists Harold Feinstein and Jim Karalas, Smith’s assistants in New York and Pittsburgh, respectively.
The second symposium, “Pittsburgh, an Evolving Story” to be Saturday, December 1, explores Pittsburgh from mid-1950s through today and the vision for the future of the city. Guest speakers include Thomas Hanchett of the Museum of the New South, and Alan Trachtenberg from Yale University.
Other programs related to “” include a lecture on Saturday, December 8, by Pittsburgh photographer Clyde Hare; and a panel discussion on Saturday, January 26, about visually documenting Pittsburgh, moderated by executive director of the Silver Eye Center for Photography, Linda Benedict-Jones, with panelists that include Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photographers Bill Wade and Pulitzer prize-winner Martha Rial.
For information, 412-622-3131 or visit www.cmoa.org.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm