The Rules Were Different … For Smith

Ben Cosgrove looks into one of W. Eugene Smith’s iconic stories for Life magazine on Dr. Albert Schweitzer. And it’s the last graf that has me pondering …

W. Eugene Smith, on the other hand, has largely escaped such censure for one reason, and one reason only: he was W. Eugene Smith, and for better or worse, when it comes to aesthetics — and even, to some extent, when it comes to ethics — genius has always played by, and been judged by, a different set of rules than those that govern the rest of us.

Would Smith’s manipulations be accepted today? Probably – hopefully – not. But, in the context of the 1950s, this was at the edge of acceptability.

Still, I’d hope it was not because of just who he was but what he did.

Mark E. Johnson

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