Photographic Immersion

The introduction to Masters of Photography: W. Eugene Smith describes the lengths that the photographer went to immerse himself in his subjects.

In 1948, Smith left without his editor’s blessing to photograph a small-town country doctor in the Colorado mountains. Resisting pressure from New York to return, he stayed for twenty-three days and nights. He used a technique that would become his trademark: "photographing" at first without film in his cameras, he stuck to the doctor like a second skin, hoping the townspeople would become so accustomed to his constant presence that they would ultimately accept him as one of their own. That he succeeded is manifest in the intimacy of the photographs he made from within the community rather than as an outsider looking in. "Country Doctor" profoundly changed the course of print photojournalism, and ultimately affected the cinema verite tradition as well.


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