He must specialize in a dozen fields...
June 2, 2008 10:00 AM   Subscribe

In 1948, W. Eugene Smith, best known for his brutally honest war photography, traveled to Kremmling, Colorado to document the life of a small town country doctor. The result, a splendid piece for Life magazine, has been hailed as one of the first photo essays of the modern photojournalism age.

Magnum Photos slideshow
A mention of the 60th anniversary of the piece in the Journal of Family Practice (scroll down).
posted by Slarty Bartfast (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This 60-year-old tourist, suffering from a heart disturbance aggravated by a trip through an 11,000-foot pass in the Rockies, came to the hospital to get an injection of morphine.

Oh man, there's so much about that photo that speaks to the difference between then and now. I mean, doctors getting into a car with you to personally shoot you up with morphine... letting you drive home afterward... getting painkillers prescribed to you simply for having endured a hard drive... she apparently suffered from a heart disturbance, but considering the era it's possible that that's a euphemism for her getting anxious and the doc deciding to dope her up as a counteragent to what he just might call "hysterics." that photo's a trip.
posted by shmegegge at 10:25 AM on June 2, 2008


If you want to just look at pictures, the magnum slideshow works better.

I love this louche photo; looks completely spent.
posted by Nelson at 10:26 AM on June 2, 2008


Very nice post. Love the Life Magazine piece. Thanks, Slarty Bartfast.
posted by amyms at 10:42 AM on June 2, 2008


A grant is given every year in Smith's name to help support work by "independent voices."
posted by photoslob at 10:53 AM on June 2, 2008


Nice post, I love Smiths work.

Boy people were skinny back then, the folks in Colorado are all bones.
posted by octothorpe at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2008


If Smith was trying to illustrate how much one man can care (physically and emotionally) for the well-being of his community, he has succeeded in my book.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:11 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some outrageously superb posts today & yesterday - and this is one of them.
Fascinating, thanks Slarty Bartfast.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:18 AM on June 2, 2008


It's hard to be a primary care doctor and not be impressed by people like this. There's a few old codgers at my hospital that are retired or semi-retired who used to to this kind of thing -- deliver babies and take out appendixes, then come back to the office and give old ladies their B12 shots or tell a guy with pneumonia to take a stiff shot of brandy along with their antibiotic.

Oh man, there's so much about that photo that speaks to the difference between then and now.

Yeah, but isn't this passage something:

The average 1947 net income of independent physicians in all fields of medical practice was $11,300. Specialist who confine themselves to one field average $14,442. General practitioners earn $9,541. Furthermore a specialist's life is usually easier than that of a general practitioner. A case of dermatitis or syphilis may be treated during office hours; stomach-aches and accidents occur at all hours....

...Annually the nation's medical schools send a majority of their graduates into specialization. The current of need runs in the opposite direction. Two things can help turn back this current: a reformation on the part of the schools, which as a rule present specialization as a glamorous occupation and general practice as the thankless chore of a drudge, and an effort on the part of small communities to attract general practitioners by following the example of Kremmling.


/done editorializing
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:29 AM on June 2, 2008


This was great, thanks for the find.
posted by dejah420 at 12:10 PM on June 2, 2008


Smith also had the stuffing beaten out of him in Japan for his photos. A real hero in my book.
posted by etaoin at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2008


Alas, HIPAA makes doing a story like this untenable for most photojournalists. Most health care people I've shot don't even want to try to get the consent of their patients, because it would be too much trouble and has too much potential to end in a lawsuit.
posted by bugmuncher at 5:22 PM on June 2, 2008


Thanks!
posted by ilike at 7:53 AM on June 4, 2008


Wow. Just saw this post. I was born in Kremmling, Colorado. There was only one doctor in town back then, too, but it wasn't this guy.
posted by mattbucher at 12:55 PM on June 6, 2008


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