Eugene Richards was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. After graduating college with a degree in English/Journalism, he studied photography with Minor White. Beginning in the late 1960s he served as a VISTA volunteer, a kind of social worker in eastern Arkansas, then went on to co-found a grassroots social service organization and a community newspaper that reported on black political action and the Ku Klux Klan. The photographs he made during those years were the basis of his first monograph, Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta.
Returning to Dorchester, Massachusetts, Mr. Richards began to document the changing racially-charged neighborhood where he was born. His self-published book, Dorchester Days, led to his working increasingly as a freelance magazine photographer, undertaking assignments on such diverse subjects as emergency medicine, the American family, river blindness in Africa, the wars in Lebanon and Bosnia, and aging and death in America.
Richards has published sixteen books. Among them are: Exploding Into Life, which chronicles his first wife’s struggle with breast cancer; Below The Line: Living Poor In America, a documentation of rural and urban poverty; Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, an investigation of the impact on society of hardcore drug addiction; The Fat Baby, an anthology of fifteen textual and photographic essays; Stepping Through the Ashes, an elegy to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001; The Blue Room, a study in color of abandoned and deserted houses in rural America; and A Procession of Them, which confronts the plight of the world’s institutionalized mentally disabled. Richards’s most recent book, War Is Personal, is an assessment in words and pictures of the human consequences of the Iraq war.
Among numerous honors, Mr. Richards has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, the Kraszna-Krausz Award for Photographic Innovation in Books, the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Amnesty International Media Award. But, the day came, one of seven short films written and directed by Mr. Richards, was named Best Short Film at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
Eugene Richards’s photographs have been exhibited internationally in more than forty solo shows, at such places as the International Center of Photography in New York, VISA pour l’Image in Perpignan, and Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the International Center of Photography, New York; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, among others.
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