“AN IDEAL OF WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH THE MEDIUM”: FIRST EDITION OF W. EUGENE SMITH’S MASTERPIECE, MINAMATA
SMITH, W. Eugene and SMITH, Aileen M. Minamata. New York: Alskog-Sensorium/Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975. Large quarto, original blind-stamped burgundy leatherette, original dust jacket. With laid-in 1981 exhibition catalogue (measures 8 by 9 inches), stapled as issued. $550.
Deluxe first edition of W. Eugene Smith’s last major photobook, from the library of his longtime partner Margery Lewis Smith, featuring 150 finely screened black-and-white photogravures documenting the tragedy of Minamata. With laid-in 1981 exhibition catalogue containing ten photogravures.
Minamata, W. Eugene Smith’s last major photo essay stands as “an ideal of what can be done with the medium,” presenting a moving indictment of environmental pollution (New York Times). As Cornell Capa notes, these “are great photographs that will survive all of us. They have strength of conviction. Smith has done the ultimate in sublimation of self, sublimation of art” (Hughes, 521). In his New York Times review, Paul Theroux wrote that these “superb photographs only emphasize that beauty is the beginning of terror… Minamata is the small history of a village which shares a boundary with every town in the world.” Smith’s haunting picture “of 16-year-old Tomoko Uemura being bathed by her mother is the last great photograph Smith was to make before his death in 1978. In this image, the tragedy of Minamata is recorded and transcended at the same time” (Roth, 232). “Deluxe” edition published same month as first edition in cloth, and in wrappers, no priority established. This copy with a laid-in catalogue from the 1981 commemorative exhibit held at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, the repository of Smith’s archives. See Szarkowski, 150. From the library of Margery Lewis Smith, longtime partner of Eugene Smith and a noted photographer in her own right.
Book and laid-in catalogue fine; lightest edge-wear to bright about-fine dust jacket.