W. Eugene Smith was a very well-known photographer from the 1940s to the 1970s. His work with Newsweek and Life Magazine gave him a great reputation, but this stand-alone project is what really gave him the attention he deserved.
Starting in 1957, Smith spent eight years at 821 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, the home to a five-story jazz loft. Hundreds of bands and musicians traveled there and performed as W. Smith took photos and recorded music.
By 1965, W. Eugene Smith had taken about 40,000 photographs, and recorded 4,000 hours of audio from the eight years at the loft. These are all from the bands playing or rehearsing, as well as photos taken from the windows of the building, looking out into the streets of New York City. In September of 2016, WNYC Studios released a hour-and-a-half long documentary titled “The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith”. This focuses not only on the photos and tapes during the project, but also the stories that go with them. The documentary, directed by Sara Fishko, sheds light onto the characters portrayed in the photographs. Fishko explains, in great detail, what these people were going through during the time, and the dark side of these musicians’ careers.