THE SEVERAL VOICES OF W. EUGENE SMITH: A Lecture by William S. Johnson

Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. | Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2001 Campus Drive, Durham, North Carolina


In 1978, photographer W. Eugene Smith moved his archive—filling two 18-wheel trucks with 22 tons of material—from New York City to the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona. To assist Smith in sorting out his collection, CCP hired William S. Johnson, who worked with the famed photographer until Smith had a fatal stroke in the winter of 1978, before he had accomplished any of the goals he had set for himself.

Johnson then spent two years sorting, identifying, and roughly organizing the 44,000 pounds of Smith’s materials: photographs, equipment, books, records, etc., which had been left in a state of chaos by his untimely death. During this time, he also organized two exhibitions of Smith’s work, wrote two monographs on Smith, and compiled an exhaustive bibliography. Subsequently, Johnson authored W. Eugene Smith: Master of the Photographic Essay and assembled the preliminary layouts for the book Let Truth Be the Prejudice: W. Eugene Smith, His Life and Photographs, both published by Aperture. He also organized or assisted in several other exhibitions and books, and a film, about W. Eugene Smith over the next few years.

Now a part-time reference librarian in Rochester, New York, Johnson has been a photographic historian and a professional librarian for more than forty years. He has been the editor of two photographic journals; authored more than a hundred published essays, reviews, interviews, and articles; curated more than thirty exhibitions; and published numerous bibliographies and reference volumes on photographers and the history of photography.

Johnson’s talk is being held in conjunction with the exhibition The Jazz Loft Project: W. Eugene Smith in New York City, 1957-1965, organized by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where the larger Jazz Loft Project is based; the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona; and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

1 Comment

  1. Phil Daquila Said,

    March 31, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    Mr. Johnson gave a great presentation tonight. Thanks, JLP!