By: Peggy Roalf
Publish Date: Oct. 11, 2017, 1:30 p.m.
The great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa once said, “Being an artist means never looking away.” These words resonate when considering the work of photographer Eugene Richards. In Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time, the George Eastman Museum, in collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins Museum, has pulled together a collection of 146 photographs, 15 books, and a selection of short films that might be the most brutally beautiful and compassionate images ever made in the documentary mode. The exhibition continues through October 22 at George Eastman Museum, in Rochester, New York. Above: © Eugene Richards, House Hollow, Tennessee, 1986
From his portrayals of people living at the margins of society in the working class neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts, to residents of crack houses in Brooklyn, to his loving chronicle of his first wife’s struggle with, and death of cancer, Richards has told stories that cause most others to flinch. A photographer in black-and-white, his images, while often composed with jagged outlines and tilted horizon lines, possess a formal quality that is inhered, not learned, and honors, in his own very particular style, some of the greats who preceded him, including Robert Frank and Robert Klein. In later years, he has taken up color photography, creating in 2004-06 lyrically beautiful images of failed farms in North Dakota.
In a recent newspaper interview, when asked why he has chosen such subjects, Richards said, “There’s always, always people who don’t want you around. You have to find some sympathetic way in, and then decide what your job is. It’s very seldom a pleasant process, you just grit your teeth and go.” With that in mind, read these photographs and understand that the empathy with which Richards has confronted the pain of others is, in itself, an art form.
Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time,continues through October 22 at the George Eastman Museum. 900, Rochester, NY Info
It is accompanied by a catalog distributed by Yale University Press Info
Organized in collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins Museum, the exhibition will be on view there from December 9, 2017–April 15, 2018. Info
© Eugene Richards, “CrackAnnie,” Brooklyn, New York, 1988
© Eugene Richards, Doll’s Head, Hughes, Arkansas, 1970
© Eugene Richards, Final treatment, Boston, Massachusetts, 1979
© Eugene Richards, Back from prison, Shantytown, New York City, 1986