W. Eugene Smith archive
Scope and Contents
Series 1, Correspondence, 1933-1978, includes 16 boxes of Correspondence with editors, other photographers, relatives, gallery owners, agents, students, friends, and others. Subjects discussed include publication, exhibition, and sale of photographs; financial matters; teaching positions, workshops, and lectures; photographic essay projects; and a wide range of similar topics relating to Smith's life and photography. Includes both incoming and outgoing letters.
Series 2, Biographical Materials, 1910-1978, includes a vast array of materials related to Smith's life. Compiling of 9 boxes, materials include chronologies of Smith's career, newspaper clippings, personal material related to Smith's life, family, and children, school records, passports and IDs, address books and calenders, yearbooks, family photographs, and photographic albums. Files containing extensive chronologies of Smith's career, passports, divorce and marriage certificates, selective service records, papers relating to the settlement of his mother's estate, and legal papers such as affidavits, summonses, and insurance forms. some medical records, family photograph albums, and school yearbooks are also included.Smith's medical records are restricted.
Series 3, Photographic Essay Project Files, 1937-1978, includes background research material, correspondence, project expense records, writings and layouts for published and unpublished photographic essays as well as commercial work and other projects. Projects that are well documented in the papers include Black Star Publishing Company, 1938-42; War correspondent Files, ca. 1942-77; Pittsburgh Project files, 1953-59; The Big Book Files; Hitachi/Japan Project Files, 1961-62; Aperture Book Project Files, 1969; and Minamata Project Files, 1971-76.
Series 4, Activity Files, 1944-1978, includes material related to Sensorium Magazine, research files, artists, people of interest, events, and other topics of interest. There are also teaching files, membership and association files, grants, and other professional activities.
Series 5, Writings and Interviews, 1943-1978, includes published and unpublished writings by and about Smith and transcripts of interviews with Smith. Many of the writings by Smith are fragments (such as the note cards) or incomplete drafts of articles, fiction, poetry, and plays. General subjects covered include philosophy, politics, justice, art and love. There are also specific comments on photographic technique, photo-journalism, layout, and Smith's intentions in his work. The note cards and other incomplete writings are difficult to date.
Series 6, Exhibition Files, 1944-1978, are related to Smith's exhibitions and comprise of 8 boxes. Brochures, notices, press releases, paste-up and instructions for laying out exhibits, photographs of exhibit installations, and lists of photographs considered for display, and similar material relating to exhibitions of Smith's photographs. There is extensive documentation of the Jewish Museum show, Let Truth Be the Prejudice, 1971, but many of the other exhibitions are represented only by an announcement of poster.
Series 7, Publications and Printed Materials, 1938-1978, includes books, magazines and periodicals, tear sheets, albums and scrapbooks, Minamata publication files, and other publications and printed materials.
Series 8, Financial Records, 1942, 1953-1978, is compiled of 6 boxes related to Smith's finances. Bank and income tax records, receipts, bills, ledgers, correspondence, and similar material related to Smith's personal and professional finances. The financial records are divided into three sections: (1) primary financial records, ca. 1941-78, (2) secondary financial records, ca. 1950-75, (3) records relating to George Orick, Smith's agent, 1959-60. The primary records include receipts for photographic and medical expenses, bank statements and canceled checks, records of his income from teaching, lecturing, and various photographic activities. The secondary records are unsorted receipts and bills for goods and services, including utilities, are supplies, books, records, food and liquor, hardware, and airline tickets. The records relating to George Orick are a combination of Smith's and Orick's files for the period that Orick was Smith's Agent.
Series 9, Artwork and Sketchbooks, includes sketchpads, drawings, and paintings by Smith.
Series 10, Artifacts, Awards, and Memorabilia, includes certificates, medals, and awards. There are also several personal effects of Smith's, including glasses, keys, dentures, a watch, lighters, tobacco pipes, a half smoked cigarette, a pocket knife, and other materials. There is also a typewriter, rubber stamp collection, Japanese vases and dolls, a telephone, suitcase, furniture, and trunks.
Series 11, Audiovisual Materials, undated, 1937-1971, includes music files, audio equipment files, audiotapes and sound recordings, and moving image materials.
Series 12, Photographic Materials, 1938-1978, includes negatives and transparencies which includes Smith's LIFE assignments, early work for other publications, early work by Smith and Nettie L. Smith, specific assignment work such as Pittsburgh, Hitachi, and Minamata, and miscellaneous negatives and transparencies. There are also contact prints, work prints, 35mm slides, photographic equipment and equipment files.
- Majority of material found within 1910 - 1978
- Smith, W. Eugene (Person)
- Smith, Aileen Mioko, 1950- (Photographer, Person)
Conditions Governing Access
To access materials from this collection, please contact CCP-RefDesk@email.arizona.edu
Conditions Governing Use
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.
The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement.
William Eugene Smith was born in 1918 in Wichita, Kansas. He took his first photographs at the age of 15 for two local newspapers. In 1936 Smith entered Notre Dame University in Wichita, where a special photographic scholarship was created for him. A year later he left the university and went to New York City, and after studying with Helene Sanders at the New York Institute of Photography, in 1937 he began working for News-Week (later Newsweek). He was fired for refusing to use medium-format cameras and joined the Black Star agency as a freelance.
Smith worked as a war correspondent for Flying magazine (1943-44), and a year later for Life. He followed the island-hopping American offensive against Japan, and suffered severe injuries while simulating battle conditions for Parade, which required him to undergo surgery for the next two years.
Once recuperated, Eugene Smith worked for Life again between 1947 and 1955, before resigning in order to join Magnum as an associate. In 1957 he became a full member of Magnum. Smith was fanatically dedicated to his mission as a photographer. Because of this dedication, he was often regarded by editors as 'troublesome'.
A year after moving to Tucson to teach at the University of Arizona, Smith died of a stroke.
300 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Metadata Rights Declarations
- License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.
Papers, audio visual materials, and photographic materials, 1910 1978, of W. Eugene Smith (1918 1978), photojournalist. The bulk of the collection consists of his photographic essay project files, activity files, correspondence, writings, and exhibitions from 1935 1978. The papers document his work as a staff photographer for Life, Black Star Publishing Company, Magnum, and other agencies; his extensive free lance projects, his writings and project materials including layouts and revisions of his innovative photographic essays; his exhibitions; and his educational activities. The collection also reveals his interest in music, literature, and painting. The photographic materials include photographs, negatives, and transparencies from throughout his career. This collection also includes photographic materials from the career of Smith's mother, Nettie Lee Smith (ca.1890 1955). (ca. 300 linear feet)
Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Biographical Materials
Series 3: Photographic Essay Project Files
Series 4: Activity Files
Series 5: Writings and Interviews
Series 6: Exhibition Files
Series 7: Publications and Printed Materials
Series 8: Financial Records
Series 9: Artwork and Sketchbooks
Series 10: Artifacts, Awards and Memorabilia
Series 11: Audiovisual Materials
Series 12: Photographic Materials
Materials were donated to the Center for Creative Photography by the artist in 1978.
Collection processed by William S. Johnson, Charles Lamb, and Amy Stark. Completed in 1983. Published in Guide No. 9.
Reprocessing activities started in 2019 by Lenox Wiese.
- photojournalism Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Finding aid for the W. Eugene Smith archive
- Under Revision
- Finding aid updated by Lenox Wiese and entered by Alexis Peregoy
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository
1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States