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7 February 2011
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Right Time, Right Place

US Steel Pittsburg, 1955 W Eugene Smith

US Steel Pittsburg, 1955 © Magnum

In 1955 Eugene Smith joined the Magnum picture agency and went to Pittsburgh for his first routine assignment to produce 100 photographs in three weeks to celebrate the city's first centenary. But Smith's real plan was much more ambitious. Three weeks turned into a three year commitment as he attempted to describe, understand and better the world he saw around him with no less than 21,000 photographic moments.

"Eugene Smith loved William Faulkner and he had clips of William Faulkner's quotes all over his loft and one of the quotes was about Thomas Wolfe, the writer. And William Faulkner said that Wolfe was trying to put the entire history of the human heart on the head of a pin and I think that was what Smith was trying to do with his photography. He really thought that when he finished his Pittsburgh project people were going to look at it and change their behaviour. You know, a culture was going to be changed by what he was showing. When he came here to Pittsburgh he saw nature, this extraordinary geographic environment and the heaviest industry America ever had. Immigrants from all over Europe were here. There was destruction and construction. There was wealth and poverty. There were these beautiful rivers. And it all came together in this one bundle in Pittsburgh." (Sam Stephenson, writer and Eugene Smith biographer)

Extract from 'Right Time, Right Place', Genius of Photography (Wall to Wall)

Right Time, Right Place

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