Winner Of W. Eugene Smith Award 1993
Marc Asnin, an American photojournalist, was awarded the grant to help him continue in his long-term documentation of his Uncle Charlie and his family. Asnin began this project 12 years previously in an attempt to document their struggle with poverty. The project evolved into a family album that, “while unique in some respects, is equally valuable in terms of what is shared by us all.”
The process of taking pictures for the Uncle Charlie project was always very intimate. This image is a prime example of that intimacy. In this image Charlie was coming out of one of his most anorexic and house-bound states. As he and Blanca were lying down, I was suddenly struck by how similar Charlie looked to his mother, my grandmother, when she was on her deathbed. It was a very eerie feeling to see a sort of death mask on Charlie’s face, one that looked so much like his mother. One of the major underlying themes of the Uncle Charlie project is the cyclical nature of contemporary society, how poverty and mental illness are often inherited. For Charlie to so closely resemble his dying mother in his current dilapidated state really brought the project full circle for me on both a professional and personal level.
Marc Asnin likes to say he was born and raised in Brooklyn when “Brooklyn was Brooklyn.” Which is his way of saying, not the hip, phony, expensive version that comes to mind these days. If this sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder, think again: it’s on both shoulders. His clients include: The New Yorker, Stern, Life, New York Times Magazine, and many others. His various awards include the Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography in 1993, the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography in 2000 and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship in 2001. For the past 29 years, Asnin has photographed his Uncle Charlie. This body of work was recently selected to appear in the book Blink, published by Phaidon. Marc has also taught at the International Center for Photography and the School of Visual Arts and was a recent recipient of a Distinguished Citizen Fellowship from Indiana University.