“An Affirmation of Life” 1945-46


W. Eugene Smith, Marine Demolition Team Blasting Out a Cave on Hill 382, Iwo Jima, March 1945 (2008.55.9)

Life’s Cover
The scene of demolition on Iwo Jima symbolizes the saga of battle that in years to come will take on the epic quality of Roncevaux, Agincourt and Gettysburg. Blown up into this column of smoke is a blockhouse and some stubborn Japs who would not leave their hiding place, although invited by the marines to surrender quietly. On page 93 begins a photographic essay on Iwo Jima, a battlefield which Americans will never forget. Life, April 9, 1945, page 22


W. Eugene Smith, Some men want to make a distinction as to how other men are killed. They would outlaw poison gas, and the atom bomb–allow the flame thrower, rockets, and block-buster bombs, 1945 (2008.55.8)


W. Eugene Smith, Front line on Okinawa. One rifleman’s first day of combat; No Speeches, No Flags, No Glory, April 1945 (2008.55.19)


W. Eugene Smith, Soldier Praying, Battle for Rocky Crags, Okinawa, April 1945 (2008.55.10)


W. Eugene Smith, [Mortar explosion that wounded Smith, Okinawa], May 22, 1945 (1586.2005)

1944 was a significant year in W. Eugene Smith’s life. The twenty-six year old photographer’s life was almost half over; he photographed ground combat for the first time, and became a war correspondent for Life. Smith was born in 1918 and died in 1978. This is the last of four blog posts that present (chronologically) Smith’s photos and published photo essays, made 75 years ago, in 1944 (and a few in 1945 – on this post) in the South Pacific during World War Two. While photographing horrific combat on Okinawa in April and May of 1945, Smith was gravely wounded.

[Essential source: William S. Johnson (1981), W. Eugene Smith, Master of the Photographic Essay. New York: Aperture.]


W. Eugene Smith, Between Birth and Death: An Affirmation of Life, from “Images of Man,” 1972


W. Eugene Smith, Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946 (356.1975)

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