Remembering the Magical Work of Photographer Rodney Smith

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Rodney Smith was arguably the most under appreciated photographer of our time. The man was a master. His images felt like timeless classics regardless if they were taken ten years or ten minutes ago. Few photographers have such an intuitive grasp of what makes an image appear elegant forever. It is completely beyond me why Mr. Smith didn’t enjoy more commercial success during his life. I was devastated to learn that he passed away. His wife Leslie woke up that Monday morning to find that he had unexpectedly passed away in his sleep next to her. He was only 68 years old.

Smith called himself a closet optimist and believed that Freud’s philosophy of the ego and superego saved his life. He graduated from Yale, referenced Wittgenstein as if they were old friends, and never ever used a digital camera. He was old-fashioned through and through. The guy was my hero, and I so looked forward to working with him at Lone Wolf one day. It’s a really sad day for us and a huge loss for the creative community as a whole. You will be sorely missed Mr. Smith.

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“Nothing has ever, ever been easy for me…for 25 years I never made a penny. I mean I struggled just to eat, and I wouldn’t sell my work when people wanted to pay me very little for it. I have fought the battle for photography for so long, it’s not an easy life and if you want it, you have to really fight for it because no one is going to give it to you.”

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“No one has asked you to be a photographer, this is a profession one chooses on their own. It’s a gift that you have chosen and it takes a long time to nurture and support that gift. Everyone wants instant gratification and this is not a medium in which that is generally provided. I’ve never met anyone who’s really good at this without years of hard work.”

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“I’m always at that eccentric part, that loner that is sort of on the outside, but always looking in—always sort of peering through the door, sort of looking in, but never quite going through it.”

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“You don’t have to worry about being like anybody else if you can touch your own special voice, but you would be amazed at how people resist that. They do not want to go there because it’s a psychological journey; it’s not a mechanical journey. And people don’t want to deal with their past, their history, their emotional core, it’s too painful for them, so they stay on the surface and they make pictures that are alright, but not really powerful.”

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“I have also learned as I got older that you have more control in your life by letting go. I believe it to be one of the fundamental truths that govern us all.”

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“Composition is like rhythm in music, it’s where everything is in sync. It’s where the whole picture comes together succinctly and carefully.”

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“Many people believe that one is born with talent and some people have it and some people don’t. I actually don’t believe that. I believe that everyone has the ability; because everyone is a human being and everyone has feelings.”

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“I think everyone is searching for something, whether it’s meaning in life or purpose in life or reflecting on who they are, how they fit into their world, if what they are doing in their life is important to them. I think in almost every instance, anyone who reflects on their existence is wondering about their purpose.”

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Natalia Borecka

Natalia is the editor in chief and publisher of Lone Wolf Magazine. She founded the publication in 2012.

2 Comments
  1. Such a great inspiration he was. In the late 90’s I had the opportunity to hear Rodney speak in New York in his seminar at the PhotoPlus Expo and at the time I had only familiar with a handful of his images.
    This man was a true artist and what he believed in was working hard at your photography being if you want prolific, to create both your unique voice and your craft.
    He also inspired many of us to bring simplicity to the camera equipment side of things and to really find the quality of concept and content with our work.
    The story I will never forget is that he told of a shoot he was doing I believe for Vanity Fair in an orchard and the art director for the shoot was wondering when all his crew and lighting gear was going to show up. He said I have everything there which was an assistant with an extra camera couple extra lenses and film in his jacket pockets and a camera in hand.

    Rodney Smith took simplicity and crafted a uniquely beautiful vision that defies time. he will be deeply missed.

  2. Love this! I wasn’t familiar with Rodney Smith before this article and now I’m a fan! #restinpower

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