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Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith

Available May 2023

Paul Martineau, with contributions by Rebecca A. Senf and Leslie Smolan, and an introduction by Graydon Carter

Elegant, charming, and stunningly beautiful, Rodney Smith’s fashion photography is a delightful revelation.

“I would hope that I am one of a kind.”
—Rodney Smith

Mystery and manners, romance and fun—the sophisticated compositions and stylish characters in the extraordinary pictures of fashion photographer Rodney Smith (1947–2016) exist in a timeless world of his imagination. Born in New York City, Smith started out as a photo-essayist, turned to portrait photography, and found his niche, and greatest success, in fashion photography. Inspired by W. Eugene Smith, taught by Walker Evans, and devoted to the techniques of Ansel Adams, Smith was driven by the dual ideals of technical mastery and pure beauty. 

This lavish volume features nearly two hundred reproductions of Smith’s images—many that have never before been published—and weaves together a biocritical essay by Getty Museum curator Paul Martineau and a technical assessment of Smith’s production by the Center for Creative Photography’s chief curator, Rebecca A. Senf. It maps Smith’s creative trajectory—including his introduction to photography, early personal projects, teaching, commissioned pieces, and career in fashion—and provides insight into his personal life and character, contextualizing his work and creative tendencies within his privileged but lonely upbringing and complex emotional and psychological makeup. Rodney Smith is the definitive record of the life’s work and worldview of a truly original artist.

Paul Martineau is curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Rebecca A. Senf is chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. Leslie Smolan is the executive director of the estate of Rodney Smith and former principal of Carbone Smolan, a design firm in New York, New York. Graydon Carter, a cofounder of Spy magazine and the founder of Air Mail, was the editor of Vanity Fair for twenty-five years.

“Prominent fashion photographer Rodney Smith's (1947-2016) imaginative and whimsical images from a forty-five-year career are thoughtfully curated into Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith. This title is the definitive record of the life's work of this truly original artist and educator.”

248 pages
9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches
224 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-846-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum