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Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith

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.

“Quietly stunning new book from Getty Publications.”
—Max Hirshfeld, Blind Magazine

“A deeply personal and definitive record of Smith’s life’s work.”
—Irene Rawlings, Mountain Living

“This title is the definitive record of the life’s work of this truly original artist and educator.”
The Eye of Photography

“A radiant retrospective of his work.”
—Elin Spring, What Will You Remember?

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.”
—Jessica Stewart, LaptrinhX

“This book is a lovely homage to the memory of a brilliant and sensitive photographer.”
—Bondo Wyszpolski, Easy Reader News

“Rodney’s images are at once timeless and startlingly fresh.”
—Graydon Carter with Nathan King, AIR MAIL

Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith is a celebration of the late photographer’s life and career.”
—Hannah Rooke, NewsBreak

“The book is a well-rounded look at Smith's creative and technical genius.”
—Jessica Stewart, My Modern Met

“Rodney Smith’s lifework stands out for its expression of joy, humor, and wistfulness, and it serves as a reminder of the ways in which both fashion photography and fashion itself are in dialogue with art historical discourses. This comprehensive survey of Smith’s career illuminates not only how his playful embrace of experimentation and extraordinary technical mastery of photography resulted in imaginative, timeless images but also how these images broaden our understanding of fashion photography as a collaborative and expressive art form.”
—Michal Raz-Russo

“The project and the Getty acquisition trace a creative trajectory that has made fantasy and elegance a true photographic strand.”
—Tommaso Berra, Collater.al

“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.”
AllAboutPhoto.com

“I’ve been a fan of Rodney Smith’s work for years. With his ability to find something interesting in the ordinary, Smith’s new book is a delightful romp through a world where the mundane becomes magical, the impossible becomes possible and the absurd becomes normal. I appreciate Smith’s simplicity and instinct for beauty, coupled with a dash of surrealism and humor. If you’re looking for a book of photos that will make you see the world in a new light, look no further.”
—Elliott Erwitt, photographer

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

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum

2023