There is so much to learn! I found out about Rodney Smith at a small photography group last week and got interested enough from a couple of stories, I searched for his work on Google, and got sucked in! The next thing I knew, I had three of his books on order from Amazon to be delivered in a couple of days.
The books arrived yesterday and I plowed through them enjoying every single frame, every single page of each book. I still do not know him that well, but cannot hold my recommendations for all three of them:
- Rodney Smith Photographs is a gorgeous coffee-table book about 12″ x 15″. It will keep me busy for a couple of weeks at least.
- The Book of Books: a Compendium is a delightful book almost meant as a catalog, 6″ x 5″ but thicker than the first one.
- In the Land of Light: Israel, a Portrait of Its People is an older book dating back to 1983 but the vision in the photographs are equally strong.
Looking at his work, you will see influences from Jacques-Henri Lartigue with an echo of his brother Zissou, to Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring. There is a hint of Magritte in many photographs and the ones with jumping people are reminiscent of Philippe Halsman. You may also see glimpses of Avedon and Penn, but in all these similarities one is also keenly aware that they are just similarities and perhaps a tip of the hat to the sources of the inspiration.
Smith’s photographs are whimsical, constantly experimenting, and of very high quality. His imaginative use of locations, sometimes a narrow ledge or a corner on a building seem to distinguish his works from those who might have inspired him. He must have been a delightful person to know, which brings me to the unfortunate part of the story I heard at the above-mentioned meeting. Rodney Smith passed away last year in 2016. He has left a huge body of work that should be an inspiration to all photographers. I am including a sliver of his work here, search the Internet, get his books, get to know him and his work. There is a great sense of decency in them despite all the playfulness, whimsy, and some tension.
David Pinkham, thank you for mentioning the story about Rodney Smith, 1947 – 2016.
Images are used with permission from his wife.
(Below the gallery, there is a video that is over an hour long but worth the time.)