“A ‘ROULETTE’ OF THE PUBLIC ROAD”: VINTAGE GELATIN SILVER PRINT OF MAN WASHING MOPED, FROM W. EUGENE SMITH’S PRIVATE COLLECTION
SMITH, W. Eugene. Photograph. Hitachi, Ltd.—Man Washing Moped. No place, circa 1961. Vintage gelatin silver print (measures 10-1/2 by 15-1/2 inches), matted (total measures 20 by 16 inches), Smith’s estate inkstamp on print verso, label on mat verso. $3200.
Vintage gelatin silver print from the estate of W. Eugene Smith, his tribute to Japan’s newly vigorous postwar culture in which cars and mopeds such as that seen here are “ritually washed, polished and polished,” taken circa 1961 and chosen by Smith 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.
In the early 1960s “W. Eugene Smith spend a ‘cherished year’ in Japan working for Hitachi, Ltd.” On this, his second visit to the country, Smith’s “sense of visual unity” was heightened by his instinct for capturing the nation’s “mood of active, purposeful energy” (Maddow, 219). That vitality is especially clear in this vintage gelatin silver print of a man washing his moped. Chosen for inclusion is his photobook Japan…A Chapter of Image (1963), Smith’s caption therein notes a particular care for vehicles of all kinds, “a ‘roulette’ of the public road,” in which cars, trucks and mopeds such as that seen here are “ritualistically washed, polished and polished” (16-17). 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 on verso from New York’s Lowinsky Gallery, which displayed this print and others from the estate in a 1996 exhibit.
A fine print.