Rodney Smith was a New York-based fashion and portrait photographer. Smith primarily photographed with a 35mm Leica M4 before he transitioned to a 120/6x6 (medium format) Hasselblad with an 80mm lens. He preferred natural light to illuminate his subjects, but occasionally used continuous lighting. Smith shot predominantly in black and white, until 2002, when he first began to experiment with color film. His work is commonly referred to as classic, minimalistic, and whimsical.
Rodney Smith was born December 24, 1947 in Manhattan, New York. His father, Sanford Smith, was president of fashion industry giant. Smith recalls, "A sense of style, a sense of proportion and a sense of beauty and a sense of grace – all of those things were very important in my upbringing."
After he studied English Literature and Religious Studies at University of Virginia in 1970, Smith went for his graduate degree in Theology at Yale University in 1973. Smith said in an interview with Kodak, "I absolutely knew I wanted to be a photographer, but I didn't feel that studying in an art school or a photography department full time was the way to address the issues that were interesting to me – so I sort of entwined the two."
While at Yale, he also studied under photographer, Walker Evans
In 1976 Mr. Smith spent 100 days photographing the people of the Holy Land, in Jerusalem. From the 88 Rolls of film shot, Smith ended up compiling two portfolios, which later became his first book: In the Land of the Light: Israel, a Portrait of Its People
(1983). Published by Houghton Mifflin Company in Israel.
After returning from Jerusalem, Smith spent a short time as an adjunct professor of photography at Yale University. As Smith continued his career into the nineties he slowly shifted from corporate executives to fashion photography. "My feelings about photography are exactly the same today as when I was 20. That is, I have a love/hate relationship with making pictures."
Looking at pictures is one thing, he qualifies, "But making pictures – making pictures for me is hard, hard work."
Rodney Smith's work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal
to Martha Stewart, from Time
. In addition to his work as a photographer, Smith lectured and gave workshops.
lived and worked in New York City, with his wife, Leslie Smolan
, and daughter, Savannah, and son Jonah Smith. His wife, Leslie, is co-founder of graphic design and branding firm, Carbone Smolan Agency
. He is currently represented by a number of galleries both in the US and internationally; acte2galerie
of Paris, France, The PhotoGallery AB
of Halmstad, Sweden, FOST Gallery
of Singapore, Fahey Klein Gallery
of Los Angeles, California, Galerie Greenwich
of Greenwich, Connecticut, Galerie Sono
of Norwalk, Connecticut, Gilman Contemporary
of Ketchum, Idaho, and Staley-Wise Gallery
of New York, New York. In the past 25 years, Smith received 50+ awards including First Prize for his book The End
from International Photography Awards (IPA). He has also received several Communication Arts and Photo District News (PDN) awards.
Smith died in his sleep on December 5, 2016 at the age of 68.