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Gene Smith's Sink

Gene Smith's Sink Cover

Gene Smith's Sink

A Wide-Angle View

By Sam Stephenson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374232153, 224pp.

Publication Date: August 22, 2017

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Description

An incisive biography of the prolific photo-essayist W. Eugene Smith

In an interview with Philippe Halsman, W. Eugene Smith remarked: I didn t write the rules why should I follow them? Famously unabashed, Smith is photography's most celebrated humanist. During his reign as a photo-essayist at Life magazine in the 1940s and 1950s, he established himself as an intimate chronicler of human culture. His photographs of jazz musicians, disasters, doctors, and midwives revolutionized the role that image-making played in journalism, transforming photography for decades to come.

In 1997, lured by the intoxicating trail of people that emerged from Smith's stupefying archive, Sam Stephenson set out to research those who knew him from various angles. In Gene Smith's Sink, Stephenson revives Smith's life and legacy, merging traditional biography with highly untraditional digressions. Traveling across twenty-nine states, Japan, and the Pacific, Stephenson tracks down a lively cast of characters, including the playwright Tennessee Williams, to whom Smith likened himself; the avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, with whom he once shared a chalet; the artist Mary Frank, who was married to his friend Robert Frank; and Thelonious Monk and Sonny Clark, whom Smith recorded on surreptitious tapes.

The result of twenty years of research, Gene Smith's Sink is an unprecedented look into the photographer's beguiling legacy and the subjects around him.



About the Author
Sam Stephenson is a writer and documentarian born in Washington, North Carolina. He is the author of Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project and The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965, while his writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Paris Review, Tin House, and the Oxford American. He is a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a two-time Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winner, and the 2012-2013 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where in 2013 he founded Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature & Materials.
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