Eugene Smith' Country Doctor

As suggested in the reader, I had a look at Eugene's Smith' Country Doctor photos. This set of images were taken over the course of 3 weeks in a rural village in Colorado. They show the work and life of country doctor Dr Ceriani, the long hours he makes, the diversity of the patients and problems he has to deal with, and most of all, the interaction between him and his patients and all the emotions that come to play when dealing with sickness and emergencies.

The photographs form a fantastic coherent set that make you curious from the first one and want you to go through them again and again. Not only do they tell about the life of an extraordinary person, they also show a time and place in which patient and doctor lived in a community together, when it was okay to smoke and life in itself seemed hard and dangerous.

Each composition is so strong, there is a lot of contrast in the shades of black and white which focuses the eye on the emotions of the people and really lead its viewers from one element in the image to the other, forming a narrative in itself. I keep on wondering what is going on and start to develop an idea of the doctor and its patients character, making me more curious and part of the intimate relationship between doctor and patient. 

Even though the images themselves have a strong narrative power, the captions bring a considerable added value and information to them as well. They work towards bringing the viewer even closer to its subject and sympathize even more. 

You can see that the doctor (and patients as well) is not really aware of the fact that he is photographed. Even though I find the images look like they could all have been taken straight from a movie (mainly because of the dramatic elements and the strong contrasty black and white), they are not staged at all and have an authenticity that is really touching, even when looking at them in a different time and age. 

I believe it is the humanity that Smith is able to show that draws its viewers so much to the images. We recognize the pain and sorrow in the patients faces, the care and relationship that we would all like to experience when sick and find comfort in seeing a strong man doing exactly that. 

Cosgrove, B. (2012) W. Eugene Smith’s landmark portrait: ‘Country doctor’. Available at: (Accessed: 15 January 2016)