“THE RACE FOR TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS”: VINTAGE GELATIN SILVER PRINT FROM W. EUGENE SMITH’S PRIVATE COLLECTION, FEATURED IN HIS JAPAN… A CHAPTER OF IMAGE
SMITH, W. Eugene. Photograph. Hitachi:, Ltd.—Large Steel Parts/Machines. No place, circa 1961. Vintage gelatin silver print (measures 15-1/2 by 10 inches), matted (total measures 20 by 16 inches), Smith’s estate stamp on print verso, gallery exhibit label on mat verso. $4200.
Vintage gelatin silver print from the estate of W. Eugene Smith, a dynamic image of contrasts as a worker mans the controls of a massive steel turbine and a woman quietly sweeps the floor alongside. Taken circa 1961 and chosen for his 1963 photobook Japan… A Chapter of Image, this print with Smith’s estate inkstamp on the verso was featured in a highly praised 1996 New York gallery exhibit.
Commissioned by Hitachi Corporation to visually record Japan’s newly booming economy, W. Eugene Smith spent a year photographing workers in Hitachi’s many plants. Throughout Smith remained “focused on bringing out the strong contrast between… the race for technological progress… and Japan’s deeply rooted cultural traditions” (Mora & Hill, 294). In that spirit, this vintage print shows a man at his workstation behind an imposing steel turbine. Contrasting that is the figure of a woman in the foreground, quietly bent to her task of sweeping the floor. Chosen by Smith for inclusion in his photobook Japan… A Chapter of Image (1963), his book caption observes that Japan’s dramatic industrial rise was “a stark tightrope ordeal—a continuing one-two-three routine, of import-manufacture-export,” that relied almost exclusively on “the keen energy of her people” (11). Print with inkstamp on the verso reading “Photograph by W. Eugene Smith: This authenticated photograph was in the private collection of W. Eugene Smith at the time of his death—October 15, 1978.” Mat with small label of New York’s Lowinsky Gallery, which exhibited this print and others from the estate in early 1996.
A fine print.