W. Eugene Smith

Unnamed

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978), Dr. Kraushaar, President of Goucher College (from Goucher College Essay GC-1-4), 1967, Gelatin silver print, Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Gift of Mr. Richard L. Sandor, 1986.049.004

 

ABOUT THE ARTWORK

 

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Who made it?

W. Eugene Smith's passion for photography started when he was just nine years old. His mother, a photographer herself, gave him a camera and even developed his photos in her homemade darkroom. Others saw these photos in his hometown of Witchita, Kansas, and he became a photographer for the local newspaper. 

Smith received a photography scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he became an active photographer on campus. Opportunities, including shooting the football team in action, paved the way for his passion to “capture the action of life.” With all his focus on photography, he struggled through his school work and ultimately left the University in his second semester to attend the New York Institute of Photography. After completing the academic year in New York, he went to work for Newsweek while freelancing with other significant publications, including LIFE and The New York Times.

During World War II, Smith became a war correspondent documenting the U.S. Marines and Japanese prisoners of war. This service, unfortunately, left him severely injured. After years of recuperating, Smith traveled to Colorado to photograph a small-town doctor who provided health care for his community of 2,000 and dealt with life and loss daily. Country Doctor, published in LIFE Magazine in 1948, was regarded as a defining moment for photojournalism. Smith continued to capture unseen and untold stories in photographs throughout the world for the rest of his life.


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What's going on in this work?

We know the man featured in this photograph to be Dr. Otto Kraushaar, pictured at his last graduation ceremony as the President of Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. He appears near the edge of the photograph wearing his graduation cap and gown, looking out into the distance. The abstracted backdrop intensifies the focus on Dr. Kraushaar and the importance of this moment to him. 

While not much is written about this particular photograph of Kraushaar,  we suspect that Goucher College wanted to highlight the final moments of his nineteen-year career as President of the College. Kraushaar was known for making big changes to the institution, including its move from Baltimore to Towson, creating financial security for the nationally-ranked women’s College, and desegregating the school. With those accomplishments in mind, we imagine him reflecting on that time while imagining his future, an act shared with many of his graduating students that day. 


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Take a closer look.

Click on the full image of the photo above to see a larger version of W. Eugene Smith's work. Look closely at the photograph and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family, a friend virtually, or with us by responding to this email.

  • What is the mood of this photograph? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What do you imagine Dr. Otto Kraushaar was thinking about in this photograph?
  • This photograph was one of several in a small photo essay. What do you think the other images were? What other moments might Smith have wanted to capture during this culmination of both an academic year and Kraushaar’s presidency?  
  • Have you ever graduated from something or completed something? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about at that time? 

The Snite Museum congratulates the class of 2020 on their graduation. We are all celebrating your accomplishments and wish you the best in all your future endeavors! 

Image credits:
W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978), Dr. Kraushaar, President of Goucher College (from Goucher College Essay GC-1-4), 1967, Gelatin silver print, Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Gift of Mr. Richard L. Sandor, 1986.049.004  | Photograph of W. Eugene Smith from the International Photography Hall of Fame. | Two detailed views of Dr. Kraushaar, President of Goucher College (from Goucher College Essay GC-1-4) in a circular format, progressively zooming in on the photograph.