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W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult

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W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult + Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens + Ansel Adams: American Experience
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Editorial Reviews

The war in the South Pacific, a country doctor in Colorado, victims of industrial pollution in a Japanese village - all of these were captured in unforgettable photographs by the legendary W. Eugene Smith. No matter where, what, or whom he was shooting, Smith drove himself relentlessly to create evocative portraits that revealed the essence of his subjects in a way that touched the emotion and conscience of viewers. The life and work of this brilliant and complicated man, whose passion for social justice matched his desire to create photographs that were works of art, are explored in this film.

In addition to showcasing over 600 of Smith's stunning photos, the program includes a dramatic recreation in which actor Peter Riegert (Crossing Delancey, Local Hero) portrays Smith, both in his New York City loft and at the locations where he shot some of his major work. This device allows the photographer to speak for himself, with dialogue taken from his diaries and letters.

Interwoven through the documentary is archival film footage as well as interviews with Smith's family, friends and colleagues, including Aileen Smith, his second wife and collaborator; writer and art critic John Berger; writer Ben Maddow; photo historian William Johnson, who was Smith's archivist; Smith's biographer Jim Hughes, author of the McGraw-Hill book W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance; UPI correspondent and friend Red Valens; and Ed Thompson, former managing editor of Life magazine. The wide range of music used in the film, from blues to jazz to classical, reflects the importance of music to Smith throughout his life.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Riegert
  • Directors: Gene Lasko
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2010
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003VTKZDO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,493 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Croft on September 25, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult" is a ninety-minute documentary produced for the Public Broadcasting System's American Masters television series. It was written by Jan Hartman and is based on the letters and journals of this internationally respected photojournalist.

The program introduces the viewer to hundreds of Mr. Smith's photographs through a dramatic recreation of the photographer's life. Peter Riegart portrays the artist, starting with his assignment covering the South Pacific war experiences of the 1940's. Through his photographs for Life Magazine, Mr. Smith wanted to "carry some message against the greed, stupidity and intolerance that causes war". If it were not for just a "simple accident of birth, the fate of a particular country of origin, we could be considered as the enemy".

Interwoven with details regarding particular photojournalistic assignments is the story of the photographer's personal life. He was raised by a father who committed suicide as the result of business failures, and a mother who maintained a staunch Catholic faith. She inculcated, in her children, the idea that life might be considered as under the spell of a punishment resulting from some primeval transgression. This intense upbringing instilled in the man a ferocious work ethic and contributed to his desire to cover subjects of perennial social importance.

Upon returning from the war, Smith's next assignment was to follow a country doctor for some 23 days and nights, sharing intimately in the life of his subjects.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Peterson on July 13, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a great introduction to the greatest photojournalist. I don't feel that I am exagerating here at all. Smith changed the history of photography, and his pictures changed in very real ways, the history of our country and others as well. He was a complicated person, likely suffering from significant psychological issues and other problems, but his work shines through.
The movie shows him, blemishes and all, as the photographer,poet,benzadrine user,manic artist who defined a discipline that brought horrow and joy from places far away, suddenly into our living room, suddenly very close to us.
This is a typical "PBS style" documentary - you're children may become bored, but I would recomend it to any one who loves photography and photojournalism.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Luis G. P. Davidson on November 26, 2002
Format: DVD
I just watched this documentary. It is an honest and very well conducted portrait of this man, Gene Smith, probably one of the most important photographers of our time. Claerly, the man who inspired the fancy-overrated-rich-and-famous Sebastião Salgado. But Eugene was an artist in the pure sense, sensible, human, and with a genuine concern about our world, and obsessed with his job to show us the truth. Even a very bad conducted personal life, wouldn't hurt the precious art he left to us.
The fact about this film is that it seems to be no book around as rich and detailed. If you already like Eugene Smith, buy it. If not, buy it too, and you'll learn to love him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kim Aaron Green on March 16, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I find this docu-drama a useful look at a complicated and nuanced photographer. Having an actor portray Smith in scenes mixed with the more standard interview documentary model makes the story more engaging for younger viewers. The fact that the dialogue (monologue actually) comes from Smith's writings keeps the legitimacy of the presentation high. There are many stills of his work included to give a good representation of his photography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By felixfoto on January 19, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I bought this dvd to possibly show my high school photography class. Its difficult finding documentaries that are well done about
photographer's lives. This dvd was well great! The acting was great along with the amount of original images shown.
I highly recommend it!
Louis
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. beckman on August 2, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's rare to find an account of the life of W Eugene Smith - and this "docu-drama" was well done. Gene Smith was a passionate documentarian of the human condition, even - at times - at the expense of his own family. This production did not fail to show both the success and the hardship of a photographer dedicated to his art, his love for his family and his reconcilliation of both. A very well made production and worth purchasing for the dedicated historian of modern photographers as well, for the classroom involved with contemporary American History. Well worth the purchase!
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