Eugene Richards’ impact on photojournalism can’t be overerstated. Richards’ work inspired a generation of photographers—including this one—to pick up a camera and document the lives of those who slip through the cracks of society. Unflinching in tough situations—from photographing his own wife’s death to documenting users deep in the heart of a drug den—Richards has been able to bring viewers face to face with a life many don’t know or don’t want to acknowledge.
Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time, his first full museum retrospective, is long overdue. Hosted first by the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, then moving to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, this collection of 146 photos, 15 books, and a selection of “moving images” serves as a reminder, for those of us who were once so moved by his photographs, to throw ourselves into the world, camera in hand, of why we started. It’s also a refreshing splash of inspiration to a new generation of photographers experiencing Richards’ mastery for the first time.
The images are searing, compassionate, brutal and beautiful, all at once. The show pulls work from every major body of work throughout Richards’ career: from his early days in the Arkansas Delta, to crack houses in Brooklyn, to the post-9/11 landscape, to his quieter work on the Dakota plains.
Where Richards excels, though, is not just as a photographer, but as a social documentarian, someone who knows what it means to carry the responsibility and privilege of telling someone else’s story with empathy.
All photos by Eugene Richards, courtesy of the George Eastman Museum.