Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey was published on the occasion of a major twenty-five year retrospective exhibition at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. It brings together for the first time in one volume a broad and varied selection of Smith’s prodigious work.
The large number of reproductions trace the growth of his distinctive and life-affirming vision in photographs of the land, cities, and people. A foreword by Marianne Fulton, Senior Curator at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House places Smith’s work in an historical context, and an insightful essay by John Bratnober probes the connection between the photographs and the life of the artist. A complete chronology and bibliography are included.
The high production standards combined with the beauty of the photographs insure that this high-quality publication will stand as one of the finest monographs ever produced. Every detail of production was supervised by the photographer. Printed by Gardner Lithograph using the laser Fultone® process on specially manufactured, heavy, coated Cameo Dull paper, the 176 reproductions have remarkable fidelity to the delicacy and luminosity of the original photographs. Included are 24 fold-outs for reproduction of the large-scale 8×20-inch contact prints. An elegant and sturdy French-fold dust jacket complements the fineness of the book itself.
From the Foreword by Marianne Fulton
Having carefully considered the technical matters of print size, exquisite detail, and quality printing long ago, Michael A. Smith proceeds to work behind the view camera with great feeling and intuition.
This blend of total control and absolute freedom results in images with fresh insight into the subject portrayed as well as into the field of photography. . . . Whether on a rooftop in New Orleans or a canyon rim in Arizona, Smith pushes himself relentlessly to discover the picture before him. . . . Smith brings together the tradition of the fine print as exemplified in Edward Weston’s photographs and the western views of nineteenth-century photographer Timothy O’Sullivan. . . . Smith has elaborated on both paths, translating them through his contemporary sensibility towards portraiture, landscape, and urban spaces.
From the essay, A Visual Journey, by John Bratnober
He makes only contact prints . . . from 8×10-inch, 8×20-inch, and 18×22-inch negatives which have a tonal richness and an abundance of detail impossible to achieve with enlargements. . . . Smith’s photographs are filled with spirit and life. Their beauty derives from a graceful ordering of spatial, tonal, and textural relationships that arise with the dynamic synergy of a musical ensemble.
Michael A. Smith, born in Philadelphia in 1942, has been working in photography since 1966. Less than a year later, in 1967, he began photographing exclusively with an 8×10-inch view camera, committing himself to the contact print. Later he added both an 8×20 and an 18×22-inch view camera.
During his second year as a photographer, he began teaching his own seminars and workshops, but after seven and a half years, he stopped teaching to dedicate himself solely to the making of his photographs.
His photographic journeys during the past five decades have taken him to every state in the continental United States, western Canada, Mexico, and Europe. The results of these remarkable odysseys are included in the permanent collections of over 125 museums in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
His commitment to the medium has resulted in over 200 exhibitions. In addition, he has twice received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he has been the recipient of major commissions to photograph five American cities. In 1981, Smith’s first book, the two-volume monograph, Landscapes 1975–1979, was awarded Le Grand Prix du Livre at the Rencontres Internationale de la Photographie in Arles, France. At that time, the Swiss publication Print Letter commented, “For the first time in the 11 years of the Rencontres, a deserving book has won the book prize.”
Marianne Fulton is Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. Ms. Fulton curated the exhibition, Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey, at IMP/GEH.
John Bratnober is an artist and writer living in northern California.