Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Richard W. Lee


While W. Eugene Smith was not considered a prominent figure outside of photojournalism, most people who read newspapers and magazines from the 1930s to the 1970s have seen his work. His cameras focused on some of the great events of American history during his career, including the Depression, World War II, presidential politics (Smith photographed a smiling Harry Truman holding a Chicago Tribune headlining a Dewey victory), racial tension in the 1950’s and anti-war demonstrations during the 1960s. Smith’s photographic style embodied qualities rarely found in one man. He was a master craftsman who possessed the creative vision of an artist and the social consciousness of a highly sensitive person. This combination established a standard for the photographic essay. And while one man can speak for the photo essay, Smith’s name usually comes up when photographers talk about the picture story. This thesis will look at selected photo essays and examine the relationships between Smith’s photographic technique, artistic quality and visual statement. It is the author’s contention that the photographs in Smith’s essays were made primarily for the visual impact and social statement and secondarily for the artistic and technical quality. The work that W. Eugene Smith created thrives. In 1976 the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson acquired the complete works of Smith’s. His photographs are on permanent display there as well as New York, Chicago, and Washington. Since his death, the popularity of Smith and his work has increased. This may create an image of Smith in death that was larger than that of Smith in life. If so, this paper puts an important segment of Smith in perspective.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978.
Photojournalists -- United States -- Biography.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University