W. Eugene Smith was born in December 1918 in Wichita, Kansas. He completed his graduation from Wichita North High School in 1936.
Smith started his career in photography with two local newspapers. He took pictures for The Wichita Eagle (morning circulation) and the Beacon (evening circulation).
Later, Smith shifted to New York City. In 1938, he began to work for Newsweek as a professional photojournalist. However, within some time, Smith was fired by Newsweek owing to his incessant perfectionism and thorny personality.
After his exit from the company, Smith clarified that the Newsweek wanted him to work with bigger format negatives. But he refused to give up the 35mm Contax camera he liked to work with.
In 1939, Smith started working for a Life magazine. And within no time he built a very strong relationship with the then picture editor Wilson Hicks.
Between 1957 and 1965 Smith photographed and made recordings of jazz musicians playing at a Manhattan loft. The Jazz Loft Project was devoted to preserving and cataloging the amazing works of Smith.
During this time period, Smith made approximately 4,000 hours of recordings on 1,740 reel to reel tapes. Additionally, he also clicked approximately 40,000 photographs in a loft building in Manhattan’s wholesale flower district where major jazz musicians of the day had gathered and played their music. However, the tapes have not been played since they were archived at the CCP.
In November 1974, Smith returned from his stay in Minamata, Japan. Later, after completing the Minamata book, he shifted to a studio in New York City with a new partner, Sherry Suris.
William Smith’s close friends and associates were alerted by his worsening health and medical conditions.
On 23 December 1977, Smith suffered a massive stroke, however, he made a partial recovery and continued to teach and organize his archive. In 1978, Smith suffered a second stroke and passed away.