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 Fair, W 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.