New Monograph Explores Life and Legacy of Legendary Photographer Rodney Smith

Saori on Seaplane Wing by Rodney Smith

“Saori on Seaplane Wing, Dominican Republic,” 2010 (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)
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Across his 45-year career, celebrated fashion photographer Rodney Smith took hundreds of thousands of photos. Most of his whimsical and imaginative imagery was shot on a 35mm Leica M4 before he transitioned to using a medium format Hasselblad. Smith's work was already celebrated during his lifetime, but after his passing in 2016, it's only become more clear how strong his contribution was to the history of photography.

His work has now made its way into many public collections, including the Getty Museum. So it's only fitting that their publishing branch, Getty Publications, should tackle a new monograph that examines his prolific photography career. Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith, includes many never-before-seen photos from the New Yorker, who regularly contributed to Vanity FairW Magazine, and The New Yorker.

With nearly 200 images, the book is an in-depth look at the photographer who has often been compared to Surrealist painter Rene Magritte thanks to his dreamlike compositions. Getty Museum Curator of Photography Paul Martineau, who authored the volume, shares, “Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, his photographs lead us down the rabbit hole to a fantastical place that is just beyond our reach but one intended to inspire us to be better versions of ourselves.”

At the same time, Martineau also appreciates Smith's uncanny ability to create perfectly balanced imagery. He tells My Modern Met, “The work is perfectly composed, and his later pictures demonstrate great sophistication in terms of his color relationships.”

Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith details the photographer's trajectory, which took him from street photography to corporate photography to the fashion imagery that he's most well-known for. The book also investigates Smith's personal life and character, particularly how his privileged, lonely upbringing manifested itself in his creative tendencies. “Smith often stated that photography saved his life,” Martineau shares. “I hope people will be intrigued and impressed by the somewhat tortuous trajectory of Smith’s personal and artistic journey.”

With text by Martineau, as well as essays by Rebecca A. Senf from the Center for Creative Photography and former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, the book is a well-rounded look at Smith's creative and technical genius. The book, which comes out May 16, is now available for pre-order.

Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith is a new monograph about the work of acclaimed fashion photographer Rodney Smith.

Rodney Smith Leap of Faith Book Cover

The book includes nearly 200 images, many of which have never before been published.

Rodney Smith Self Portrait with Lesley

“Self-Portrait with Leslie, Siena, Italy,” 1990. (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)

Through text by Getty Museum curator Paul Martineau and others, the book is an illuminating look at the work of the whimsical, imaginative photographer.

Twins in the Tree by Rodney Smith

“Twins in the Tree, Snedens Landing, New York,” 1999. (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)

Don Jumping Over Hay Roll

“Roll No. 1, Monkton, Maryland,” 1999. (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)

The book, which comes out May 16, is now available for pre-order.

AJ Chasing Airplane by Rodney Smith

“A.J. Chasing Airplane, Orange County Airport, New York,” 1998. (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)

Saori and Mossimo Holding Hands by Rodney Smith

“Holding Hands, Amalfi, Italy,” 2007. (Photo: © 2023 Rodney Smith Ltd., courtesy of the Estate of Rodney Smith)

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Related Articles:

Rodney Smith Website Honored at 25th Webby Awards

Interview: The Illustrious Career of Photographer Rodney Smith

A Look at the Magical World of Iconic Photographer Rodney Smith

Legendary Rodney Smith’s Whimsical Nature Photography Honored in Upcoming Exhibition

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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