The Jazz Loft Project

The Untold Stories of W. Eugene Smith

The Jazz Loft Project, organized by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in cooperation with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona and the W. Eugene Smith estate, is devoted to preserving and cataloging Smith’s tapes, researching the photographs, and obtaining oral history interviews with all surviving loft participants. The transferred recordings reveal high sound quality and extraordinary musical and cultural content, offering unusual documentation of an after-hours New York jazz scene.

Sam Stephenson

Sam Stephenson is a writer who grew up in Washington, North Carolina. He was 2010 and 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor / Virgil Thomson Prize winner and a 2019-2020 Guggenheim Fellow in General Nonfiction.  His books have been published by W.W. Norton, Alfred A. Knopf, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux….more

W. Eugene Smith (Phaidon 55)
The Jazz Loft Project
Dream Street
Bull City Summer

About Author

A few words


On a quick thumb-through, this looks like a book I’ll spend lots of random hours with. Very well-assembled and meets my expectations for the BOOK.

James Mahoney

Any admirer of Smith’s or anyone who appreciates excellent photography monographs should own this book. The transcripts are a huge bonus and quite an entertaining read. Highly recommended.

Yi Valencia

Strictly speaking, it’s not among WGS’s best photos. But from a more significant historical angle, this book was a huge success. especially if, like me, you are a passionate musician, photographer, or jazz fan. This project’s sheer scope is astounding. The content and feel of the photos perfectly complemented the gritty urban atmosphere Mr. Stephenson’s text created, despite the photographs’ lack of the technical quality we’ve come to expect from Smith’s essays. Incorporating dialogue transcribed from the numerous tapes in Smith’s library with his photographs accurately depicted the lives of these musicians, whom we now consider to be jazz legends and heroes.

R. M. Peterson

I bought this book at the time is was initially released. I also went to the Chicago Cultural Center to preview a traveling exhibit of much of this work.

I got to interview the author and discuss the Jazz Loft Project. If you can locate the book, it’s well worth reading. Long before I learned about his connection to the NYC Jazz Loft Scene, Gene Smith has been a favorite of mine since I first took up a camera as a teenager. If I had a complaint, it would be that I would love to see 100 more photographs….but I understand the complexities of doing so. It’s a winner!

Mark A. Sheldon

This book is essential reading for anybody interested in jazz music or the photography of W. Eugene Smith. I ordered it without giving it a second thought, and I got it with the quickest post possible. For students studying photography and jazz as well as anyone curious about what was happening in non-mainstream New York during those years, Smith’s loft years documentation is a priceless resource. One word that best describes the entire “Loft Project” is “passion.” I’ve gone through the entire book three times. I have it close to my jazz CD library and play the music of the artists who performed in his loft quite a bit, all thanks to it. Nothing more; simply go acquire it.

Navroze Contractor

Endless Source of Inspiration – W. Eugene Smith

W Eugene Smith is probably one of the most brilliant photojournalists of the mid-20th century. He was a master of the photo essay as his contributions to LIFE magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and the New York Times touched a generation. He was one of the most prolific photographers ever leaving a legacy of hundreds of thousands of photos. Below is the story of W. Eugene Smith.

THE JAZZ LOFT PROJECT: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965

by Sam Stephenson