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Art Talks: Art and Journalism, Past and Present | Eugene Richards, Sam Stephenson, Arezoo Moseni | An Art Book Series Event

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Program Locations:

Fully accessible to wheelchairs

First come, first served

For fifty years, iconic photographer Eugene Richards has traveled the world making seminal records of racism, poverty, drug addiction, cancer, aging, war, and the erosion of rural America, among others. For twenty years, writer Sam Stephenson (of Jazz Loft Project acclaim) followed the global footsteps of Richards’ forebear, W. Eugene Smith, the legendary “Master of the Photographic Essay.” 2017 brings landmark books by these two documentary artists.  For Richards, his first career retrospective, the powerful The Run-On of Time; for Stephenson, Gene Smith’s Sink, a stunning, spare narrative from Smith’s trail. In this unique conversation moderated by Arezoo Moseni, Eugene Richards and Sam Stephenson explore the tensions and overlaps of art and journalism, and the relevance and necessity of both to our time more than ever.

In an interview with Philippe Halsman, W. Eugene Smith remarked: “I didn’t write the rules—why should I follow them?” Famously unabashed, Smith is photography’s most celebrated humanist. During his reign as a photo-essayist at Life magazine in the 1940s and 1950s, he established himself as an intimate chronicler of human culture. His photographs of jazz musicians, disasters, doctors, and midwives revolutionized the role that image-making played in journalism, transforming photography for decades to come. In 1997, lured by the intoxicating trail of people that emerged from Smith’s stupefying archive, Sam Stephenson set out to research those who knew him from various angles. In Gene Smith’s Sink: A Wide-Angle View, Stephenson revives Smith’s life and legacy, merging traditional biography with highly untraditional digressions. Traveling across twenty-nine states, Japan, and the Pacific, Stephenson tracks down a lively cast of characters, including the playwright Tennessee Williams, to whom Smith likened himself; the avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, with whom he once shared a chalet; the artist Mary Frank, who was married to his friend Robert Frank; and Thelonious Monk and Sonny Clark, whom Smith recorded on surreptitious tapes. The result of twenty years of research, Gene Smith’s Sink is an unprecedented look into the photographer’s beguiling legacy and the subjects around him.

The Run-On of Time is the first publication to situate the work of Eugene Richards in the long photographic tradition that merges personal artistic vision with documentary practice. Richards is a documentary photographer known for his powerful, unflinching exploration of contemporary social issues from the early 1970s to the present. This remarkable book is the first comprehensive and critical look at Richards’s lifelong achievements. The Run-On of Time is published in conjunction with Eugene Richards retrospective exhibition of the same title on view at George Eastman Museum in Rochester from June 10 - October 22, 2017 and at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City from December 9, 2017 - April 15, 2018. Reproduced in tritone and color, the extraordinary images in this volume explore complicated and controversial subjects, including racism, poverty, drug addiction, cancer, aging, the effects of war and terrorism, and the erosion of rural America. The authors of the book, Lisa Hostetler (photography curator at George Eastman Museum) and  April M. Watson (photography curator at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) situate Richards’s work in the long photographic tradition that merges personal artistic vision with documentary practice, following in the tradition of W. Eugene Smith and Robert Frank.

Copies of Gene Smith's Sink (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) and The Run-On of Time (Yale University Press, 2017) are available for purchase and signing at the end of the event.

Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Sharecropper, West Memphis, Arkansas, 1971. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards
Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Sharecropper, West Memphis, Arkansas, 1971.
Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards

Eugene Richards, photographer, writer, and filmmaker, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1944. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in English, he studied photography with Minor White. In 1968, he joined VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, a government program established as an arm of the so-called” War on Poverty.”  Following a year and a half in eastern Arkansas, Richards helped found a social service organization and a community newspaper, Many Voices, which reported on black political action as well as the Ku Klux Klan.  Photographs he made during these four years were published in his first monograph, Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta. Upon returning to Dorchester, Richards began to document the changing, racially diverse neighborhood where he was born.  After being invited to join Magnum Photos in 1978, he worked increasingly as a freelance magazine photographer, undertaking assignments on such diverse topics as the American family, drug addiction, emergency medicine, pediatric AIDS, aging and death in America.  In 1992, he directed and shot Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, the first of seven short films he would eventually make.

Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Peter’s Rock Church, Marianna, Arkansas, 2010. Chromogenic development print Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards
Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Peter’s Rock Church, Marianna, Arkansas, 2010. Chromogenic development print Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards

Eugene Richards has published seventeen books. Exploding Into Life, which chronicles his first wife Dorothea Lynch’s struggle with breast cancer, received Nikon's Book of the Year award.  For Below The Line: Living Poor in America, his documentation of urban and rural poverty, Richards received an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography. The Knife & Gun Club: Scenes from an Emergency Room received an Award of Excellence from the American College of Emergency Physicians. Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, an extensive reportorial on the effects of hardcore drug usage, received the Kraszna-Krausz Award for Photographic Innovation in Books. That same year, Americans We was the recipient of the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award for Best Photographic Book. In 2005, Pictures of the Year International chose The Fat Baby, an anthology of fifteen photographic essays, Best Book of the year. Eugene Richards’s most recent books include The Blue Room, a study of abandoned houses in rural America; War Is Personal, an assessment in words and pictures of the human consequences of the Iraq war; and Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down, a remembrance of life on the Arkansas Delta.

W Eugene Smith, Pittsburgh, 1955-1957. © Heirs of W Eugene Smith, Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.
W Eugene Smith, Pittsburgh, 1955-1957.
© Heirs of W Eugene Smith, Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

Sam Stephenson is a writer and documentarian that grew up in Washington, North Carolina. He is the author of Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project and The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957–1965, as well as many pieces for periodicals such as The New York Times, The Paris Review, Tin House, and the Oxford American. In addition to his writing, Stephenson has collaborated with various institutions on many genres of documentary outcomes including The Paris Review, WNYC: New York Public Radio, The New York Public Library, the International Center of Photography, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn. Stephenson is a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a two-time ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson prize winner, and a Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and UNC–Chapel Hill. Sam Stephenson founded Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature & Materials in 2013 and authored Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark in 2014 and co-authored Big, Bent Ears: A Serial in Documentary Uncertainty, a multi-media collaboration with The Paris Review, in 2015.

Photograph of W Eugene Smith on Sixth Avenue, New York City, March 1965. © David Vestal
Photograph of W Eugene Smith on Sixth Avenue,
New York City, March 1965. © David Vestal

Arezoo Moseni is an artist. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at major venues in the U.S. and abroad such as FIAC 2014, Rome Art Week 2016, Mykonos Biennial 2017 and it is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Bibliotheque nationale de France, and Musee de La Photographie. She is the recipient of several fellowships and grants including the Carnegie Corporation of New York | New York Times award, Kentler International Work on Site grant, Yaddo Fellowship and Artists Space Independent Project grant. She received a BFA at Utah State University, a MA and MFA at the University of New Mexico, and a MLIS at Pratt Institute. She curates exhibitions and events at The New York Public Library where she has initiated several exhibition and program series featuring the work of emerging and renowned artists, architects, authors, critics, designers, poets and others.

In its ninth year the program series An Art Book, initiated and organized by Arezoo Moseni, is a celebration of the essential importance and beauty of art books. The events showcase book presentations and discussions by world 
renowned artists, critics, curators, gallerists, historians and writers.

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