Acclaimed street photographer, KU alumnus to exhibit photos at journalism school

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LAWRENCE — A collection of 25 photographs, “Streetphotos in Time” by Gary Mark Smith, a 1984 School of Journalism graduate and internationally known photojournalist, will be displayed on the second floor of Stauffer-Flint Hall as part of the William Allen White School of Journalism’s alumni photography exhibit during the Fall 2011 semester. In addition to the 25-piece exhibit at Stauffer-Flint, 12 photos will be donated to the Spencer Art Museum.

The photographs represent his outstanding work through his more than 30-year career as a global street photographer. His work has taken him to 66 countries, covering the collapse of the Soviet Union to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to capturing the only known photograph of a member of the Taliban escaping U.S. bombers at Tora Bora.

“We are proud to feature the photography by alumni on our second floor gallery,” said Ann Brill, dean of the School of Journalism. “The school has a long list of notable photojournalists who we are proud to say studied at KU. Gary Mark Smith’s work tells a compelling story, and we invite the public to come and see it.”

Smith’s work has gained international praise, including a William Randolph Hearst Award nomination in 1984, and one of four winners of American Photo magazine’s Photographer Career Competition in 1991 for his work covering conflicts in Central America. He received the award again as an International Competition in 2000 for photographs of the streets at the bottom of a volcanic eruption in the Caribbean nation of Montserrat.

In 1996, Smith was asked to contribute his work to the opening exhibit at the Spencer Art Museum. Smith later released his first street photography journal in 1999, “Molten Memoirs,” detailing life at the bottom of the volcano. In 2000, Smith’s website, was named “one of the top ten black and white photography web sites on the internet” by Black and White Online. That same year, Smith’s second global street photography book, “Searching for Washington Square,” a collection of his early work in 50 countries, was published through a grant from the Traver Foundation. In 2007, he released an online version of his third book, “White With Foam,” a photo journal about the first year around Ground Zero following the attacks of 9/11.

Smith’s artwork also can be found worldwide. Forty-five photographs from the Holdout Streets on the Montserrat Volcano Disaster are in a permanent collection of the Montserrat National Trust, and eight images from the Gulf Coast aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are in a permanent collection at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Most recently, the George Eastman House has asked Smith to contribute a print to its 2012 History of Photography auction in New York City.

While Smith has worked alone for most of his career, for his current project, he landed two extra sets of hands, both from KU: Carlos Beltran, a KU journalism graduate, and Sarah Stern, who is currently majoring in strategic communications at KU. The three collaborated after Smith learned Beltran was working to document life in some famous South American slums. After some discussion, they spent three weeks this spring in Rocinha living with host families and following lives of the people who live there. The trip included a face-to-face encounter with a gang lord who temporarily confiscated Smith’s camera.

Smith said his passion for his career drives him to not only continue his work, but to help those with the same passion reach their goals.

“If they’ve gotten to that point, they’re that talented and have that much passion for the art, I have to teach them, I have to mentor them,” Smith said. “I cannot say no.”

The end project will result in a book by Stern and Smith and a video documentary by Beltran about the making of the book. Smith said he hopes to return to Brazil in 2016 for the Olympics.

During his time at KU, Smith was a journalist for the University Daily Kansan. He later earned a Master of Arts degree after accepting a full teaching fellowship at Purdue University in 1996.

Tue, 08/16/2011


Natasha Veeser

Media Contacts

Natasha Veeser

William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications