W. Eugene Smith - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Charles Schwartz Ltd., New York

  • Literature

    Mora and Hill, eds., W. Eugene Smith: Photographs 1934-1975, p. 312

  • Catalogue Essay

    This photograph is the definitive image from Minimata, W. Eugene Smith’s final, and arguably finest, photographic essay. Smith traveled to Minimata, Japan, in 1971 to document the effects of decades of mercury pollution by the Chisso Corporation and the movement to bring the company to justice. Smith planned to stay for a matter of months but became so deeply engaged with the story that he ultimately spent three years living among the villagers, photographing their lives and struggles and, at one point, enduring a severe beating by company thugs. The entire essay, published in book form in 1975, stands as one of the most complete photojournalistic endeavors, recording every aspect of the situation—from the pathos of the stricken villagers to the indifference of the corporate officials. During his tumultuous stay, Smith captured this quiet moment of tenderness, as a mother bathes her daughter, one of the victims of mercury pollution.

    Smith’s notations in the margin of the print offered here indicate that it was given by him to legendary photography dealer Lee Witkin for sale.


Tomoko Uemura Being Bathed by her Mother, Minamata

Gelatin silver print.
8 3/8 x 13 1/8 in. (21.3 x 33.3 cm)
Signed in stylus on the recto; inscribed to Smith’s dealer Lee Witkin 'Sale - Good Print - Lee OK' in ink in the margin; titled and annotated 'Vintage' and with other notations in an unidentified hand in pencil on the verso.

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $21,250

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas



New York Auction 14 October 2020