PHOTOGRAPHY: For almost 50 years, the photographer Eugene Richards has documented a variety of destinies, from crack addicts to people in emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals. What has driven him?
Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review
Published date: January 4, 2019

Eugene Richards:
The Run-on of Time
The International Center of Photography (ICP), New York City. Sep 27, 2018 – Jan 20, 2019

Eugene Richards

The award-winning photographer Eugene Richards is sitting in front of the audience, 74 years old and talking about his pictures in this winter’s retrospective exhibition in The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. He comes across as warm and composed – but according to himself, he has a temper.

In many of the writings about him, you can read about how it all started when Richards was called to serve in the Vietnam War, returning his draft-card to the sender torn to shreds. Pending a reaction, he took up a year’s study in photography at Minor White at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

This was the time characterised by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But what exactly led Richards to devote 50 years of his life to documentary photography? Is it the age-old knot in the heart some of us longs to untie – whereby life’s paradoxes, inequalities, and destinies led to an existential curiosity and a desire to document? An urge to question what we perceive as injustice, power abuse and human decay?

If so, it’s essentially a documentation of how misled a society can become – the American society in particular. But to be able to open your heart also requires a longing for beauty – or a distant dream of a kinder society for everyone.

Taking photographs can also, as in Richards’ case, be about conveying personal stories. A therapy of sorts, perhaps. In this, he can be compared to his namesake William Eugene Smith – known for his photographical essays. Both W.E. Smith and Robert Frank are photographers Richards’ acknowledges as his forerunners, although he has developed his own style of photography in the unique closeness to his objects. Individuals who open their lives to us – often with Richards’ camera so close it almost touches their faces. He is known for using wide angles and short lenses, as opposed to telephoto …


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