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W. Eugene Smith: The Pittsburgh Project 
 
  
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W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978)[1] is justifiably remembered as a master of the photo-essay and left a legacy with LIFE magazine of memorable pieces that will be found in any significant history of photography. His photo-essays in LIFE included "Spanish Village" (9 April 1951), "Country Doctor" (20 Sept 1948), "Schweitzer" (15 Nov 1954) and the environmental catastrophe of "Minamata" (2 June 1972) and on the last of these he did a book with his second wife Aileen.[2]
 
In March 1955 Eugene Smith, now with Magnum commenced a project for Stefan Lorant[3] to take a hundred photographs for the book project "Pittsburgh: Story of an American City" to commemorate the bicentennial of the industrial city.[4] The project was supposed to take three weeks but it lasted until August and instead of the 100 photographs required Eugene Smith had taken between 11,000, 17,000 or possibly 21,000 negatives.[5] The need to make darkroom prints to assist in the editing process was immediate and James Karales and Howard Feinstein[6] performed the monumental task working day and night. The Smith's house in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, was filled with boards covered with prints as an attempt the edit the debt-laden project continued with the help of two Guggenheim fellowships.
 
Sam Stephenson, biographer of Eugene Smith, said:
"He really thought that when he finished his Pittsburgh project people were going to look at it and change their behaviour. You know, a culture was going to be changed by what he was showing. When he came here to Pittsburgh he saw nature, this extraordinary geographic environment and the heaviest industry America ever had. Immigrants from all over Europe were here. There was destruction and construction. There was wealth and poverty. There were these beautiful rivers. And it all came together in this one bundle in Pittsburgh."[7]
The "Pittsburgh Project" was published in an incomplete form in Popular Photography's Photography Annual in late 1958 but it was far from the all-embracing vision Eugene Smith desired. The project had grown from a three week assignment for Magnum into a three year project that was never completed to his satisfaction.
 
In 1964 the book edited by Stefan Lorant Pittsburgh: The Story of An American City was published including over 1,000 photographs by Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White and others.[8] 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ For W. Eugene Smith - Jim W. Hughes, 1989, W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance: The Life and Work of an American Photographer, (New York: McGraw-Hill); William S. Johnson (ed.), 1981, W. Eugene Smith: Master of the Photographic Essay, (Millerton, NY: Aperture); B. Maddow, 1985, Let Truth Be the Prejudice, W. Eugene Smith, His Life and Photographs, (Millerton, NY: Aperture); Gilles Mora, 1998, W. Eugene Smith: Photographs 1934-1975, (New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams); W. Eugene Smith, 1993, W. Eugene Smith: His Photographs and Notes, (New York: Aperture); W. Eugene Smith & Aileen M. Smith, 1975, Minamata: Words and Photographs, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston); Alan Trachtenberg & Sam Stephenson (eds.), 2003, Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project, (New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company); Glenn G. Willumson, 1992, W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay, (New York: Cambridge University Press) 
      
  2. Λ W. Eugene Smith & Aileen M. Smith, 1975, Minamata: Words and Photographs, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston) 
      
  3. Λ Stefan Lorant was asked to do the project by Edgar Kaufmann owner of the department store. 
      
  4. Λ Alan Trachtenberg & Sam Stephenson (eds.), 2003, Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project, (New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company) 
      
  5. Λ In the Darkroom with W. Eugene Smith - The Paris Review
    Posted November 20, 2013 - Sam Stephenson
    (Accessed: 4 December 2013)
    www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/11/20/in-the-darkroom-with-w-eugene-smith/
     
    On the Magnum website the number of negatives is given as 17,000. Portfolio - USA. 1955-1957. Pittsburg, W. Eugene Smith
     
    On the BBC FOUR - Genius of Photography website the number of negatives is given as 21,000
    www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/smith.shtml 
      
  6. Λ Gene Smith, James Karales and me: Remembering the Pittsburgh Project Posted by Harold Feinstein on Dec 3, 2013
    (Accessed: 4 December 2013)
    www.haroldfeinstein.com/gene-smith-james-karales-remembering-pittsburgh-project/ 
      
  7. Λ Sam Stephenson quotations from 'Right Time, Right Place', Genius of Photography (Wall to Wall)
    The Genius of Photography" was a BBC television series.
    www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/smith.shtml 
      
  8. Λ Stefan Lorant Collection - Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
    Finding aid for 14 boxes, containing extensive notes and drafts for each chapter of Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City and more than 1,000 images that were used in the book. (Accessed: 7 December 2013)
    www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/oliver/archivalfindingaids/StefanLorantCollection.pdf 
      
 
  
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