[Smith] looks for something deeper than what we can take in at first glance; she looks for family, for perseverance, for joy, for life.
With a gentle but decisive eye and a deep love for the spirits of the figures and spaces she captures, Ming Smith holds in her hands a truly unique world. A pioneer in her field, Smith has been telling stories for decades through her dynamic and considerate photographs; they follow her life as she modeled, danced, and explored through the midwest and east coast, and they follow all the lives she touched along the way.
Following in her father’s footsteps and beginning a lifelong passion, photography found Smith at a very young age—as early as Kindergarten. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and her midwestern photographs emanate nostalgia and the softness of family and home. After studying microbiology and getting her degree from Howard University, Smith moved to New York in the early 1970s and found her creative community. Smith was the first woman member of the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of influential black photographers in the 60s and 70s who worked to capture and celebrate Black life in the city. Her innovative work has inspired many aspiring artists from the beginning of her career to the present day, impacting not only individuals but the scope of photography as a whole. Ming Smith is art history—as Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, puts it, Smith “lives deep in our history,” and is “central to how we think about photography in the 20th century and as we move into the 21st.”
Her images are intimate, whether they are catching someone’s striking stare into the camera, following the soft lines of skin and fabric, or twinkling with the speckled light of nature through the trees. She looks for something deeper than what we can take in at first glance; she looks for family, for perseverance, for joy, for life. It is a special thing to drive into the world of Ming Smith, and she invites you to do so with open arms.