Winner Of W. Eugene Smith Award 1981
The Knife and Gun Club: Scenes from An Emergency Room
One of Richards’ most poignant works, this project is a journey into the daily drama of life and death in a big-city emergency room. The stark and often harrowing scenes are accompanied by quotations by those who work in the emergency room every day. “When your heart stops first, you still have some cognitive activity up in the brain and your hearing’s probably the last sense to go. So when we’re working on a cardiac arrest and know they’re not going to be saved, I like to lean down and whisper goodbye. I mean, imagine how scared they must be.”
In the tradition of concerned documentary photography, Eugene Richards strives to broadcast the plight of individuals. Like his colleague Susan Meiselas, Richards might be thought of as a soldier with a camera, coming face to face with the difficult and the deadly: poverty in Arkansas, racial violence, political refugees, the drug culture of North Philadelphia, the criminally insane, the experiences of cancer patients. Family Album, Dorchester, Massachusetts reflects Richards’s personal and political involvement in Dorchester, the deteriorating working-class neighborhood outside of Boston where he grew up. The squirming boy in the background and anonymously held family album in the foreground represent the levels and reach of a family – past and present, permanent and evolving.
A member of Magnum Photos, Eugene Richards is known for his socially aware documentary photographs. A former VISTA volunteer and civil rights activist in the 1960s, Richards earned a BA in English from Northeastern University and did graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Minor White. His highly personal images have been frequently exhibited and published. Born in 1944 in Boston, Richards lives in New York.
Eugene Richards was awarded the 1981 W. Eugene Smith grant to complete a photographic study of a hospital emergency ward, where the most sophisticated medical techniques confront, with compassion, the most violent aspects of society. His books include “The Knife and Gun Club: Scenes from An Emergency Room,” “Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue” and “Exploding Into Life.”