W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult
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The war in the South Pacific, a country doctor in Colorado, victims of industrial pollution in a Japanese village--all were captured in unforgettable photographs by the legendary W. Eugene Smith. This program showcases over 600 of Smith's stunning photographs and includes a dramatic recreation in which actor Peter Riegert (Crossing Delancey, Local Hero) portrays the artist using dialogue taken from Smith's diaries and letters. Interwoven through the program are archival footage and interviews with family and friends of this brilliant, complicated man, whose work developed from twin themes of common humanity and social responsibility.
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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. Such intensive immersion was to become a signature of all his subsequent projects, which include: the coverage of life under Fascism in Deleitosa, Spain; following the life of Maude Callen, a nurse midwife in the American South; doing a story on Albert Schweitzer's work in Lambarene, Africa; and the making of some 10,000 images for an assignment on the city life of Pittsburgh.
A retrospective of W. Eugene Smith's work was created for a show at New York's Jewish Museum in the early 1970's. The concentrated exposure that this show provided, provoked almost universally, an overwhelming emotional response on the part of it's viewers. Smith died as the result of complications from a wound he received during his photojournalistic work in Minamata, Japan. His friends feel that he is best remembered through the informal Jazz performances of downtown Manhattan's lofts, as these perhaps best characterize the later 'lost' years of his life.
We are fortunate that this talented PBS team, who assembled "Photography Made Diffcult" as a labor of love, has given us an appreciation of the man commensurate to the dedication with which he lived his life. This program can be recommended, to all fans of photography, without reservation.
photographer's lives. This dvd was well great! The acting was great along with the amount of original images shown.
I highly recommend it!