Early Inspiration: W. Eugene Smith

Charlin Chaplin at Work
W. Eugene Smith

Nurse Midwife
W. Eugene Smith

Country Doctor
W. Eugene Smith

Back when I was a college student in Manila, the only resource for photography books that I knew of was at the Jefferson library in Buendia Avenue. They had two shelves full of monographs and I would pull each book and look through them. It was my first immersion in American Photography. One book that particularly caught my eye was Master of the Photographic Essay: W. Eugene Smith (Aperture, 1981). I had no idea what a photo essay was until I saw this and I was immediately fascinated by the idea that pictures could tell stories. I borrowed the book a few times and I would study them at night. The photographs were printed small (about the size of a thumbnail) so that approximately 1,800 images could fit in one publication. It took time for me to get through all the photographs.

Two days ago, I was thrilled to read in the news that the Life Photo Archive was being hosted by Google. I typed in my favorite essays by W. Eugene Smith and I had this big smile on my face when they came up on the screen. It was like seeing them again for the first time in a very long time.

I used to exclusively shoot in black and white before I transitioned to color a few years ago. Last May, I posted a photo essay about my niece who survived a stroke at birth. You'll see hints of W. Eugene Smith's influence on me through this body of work.