“TRADITION AND TRANSITION AND TOMORROW”: 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.—Sound Baffles at the Yokohama Works. 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 inkstamp on print verso, gallery exhibit label on mat verso. $4800.
Vintage gelatin silver print from the estate of W. Eugene Smith, his strikingly abstract image of sound baffles in the testing room at Hitachi Corporation’s Yokohama Works. 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.
Like the influential company photobooks of Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, W. Eugene Smith’s Japan… A Chapter of Image traces a moment in history when, as he describes it, “tradition and transition and tomorrow” intersect. Smith and colleague Carole Thomas spent a year in Japan, from 1961-62, photographing the plants and workers of Hitachi Corporation, a company “central to the economic miracle” of a newly vigorous Japan (Mora & Hill, 294). This vintage gelatin silver print of a photograph taken in the sound testing room of Hitachi’s Yokohama Works fully expresses Smith’s artistic goal of merging Japan’s centuries-old aesthetic tradition and its fresh embrace of modernity. The print’s mysterious abstraction of sharp lines and shadowy angles, published in Smith’s Japan… A Chapter of Image (1963), was captioned there by him as evoking not “the court of some secret order, but a ‘baffled’ room of inert opinion… where sound experts meterize the proof of their opinions”(56). 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.