Eugene Richards - biography

Eugene Richards was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in English and journalism, he studied photography at M.I.T. with Minor White. In 1968, in lieu of imprisonment for resisting the military draft, he was offered a position in VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, a federal program established as an arm of the so-called” War on Poverty.” Following a year and a half as a VISTA in eastern Arkansas, Richards helped found a social service organization and a community newspaper, Many Voices, which reported on black political action as well as the Ku Klux Klan. Photographs he made during these four years were published in his first book, Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta. Upon returning to Dorchester, Richards began to document the changing, racially charged neighborhood where he was born. The self-published Dorchester Days subsequently became the catalyst for his joining Magnum Photos in 1978. He began working increasingly as a freelance magazine photographer, undertaking assignments on such diverse topics as the American family, drug addiction, river blindness, pediatric AIDS, abuses within the meat packing industry, aging and death in America. In 1992, he directed and shot Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, the first of seven short films that he would eventually make. Richards is perhaps best known for his books. Exploding Into Life, which chronicles his first wife Dorothea Lynch’s struggle with breast cancer, received Nikon's Book of the Year award. For Below The Line: Living Poor in America, his documentation of urban and rural poverty, Richards was named Photojournalist of the Year by the International Center of Photography. The Knife & Gun Club: Scenes from an Emergency Room received an Award of Excellence from the American College of Emergency Physicians. Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, an extensive reportorial on the effects of hardcore drug usage, received the Kraszna-Krausz Award for Photographic Innovation in Books. That same year, Americans We was the recipient of the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award for Best Photographic Book. Stepping Through the Ashes, an elegy to those who lost their lives in New York on 9/11, received the Golden Light Book Award for best collaboration with a writer. In 2005, Pictures of the Year International chose The Fat Baby, an anthology of fifteen photographic essays, Best Book of the year. The Blue Room, Richards’s study of abandoned houses, and A Procession of Them, which confronts the plight of the institutionalized mentally disabled, were published in Fall 2008. His current book project, War Is Personal, is a documentation in words and pictures of the consequences of the Iraq war. Among numerous photography honors, Richards has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts grants, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, the Leica Medal of Excellence, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, two Olivier Rebbot Awards from the Overseas Press Club, a National Geographic Photography grant, a Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Journalism Award for coverage of the disadvantaged. But, the day came, a film 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 in more than forty solo shows in the United States and abroad, including Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles, the International Center of Photography in New York, and VISA Pour L’Image in Perpignan. In June 2007, Richards was honored with a retrospective, Thirteen Books, at the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. 


1973.      Few Comforts or Surprises:  The Arkansas Delta, MIT Press, Cambridge
1978.      Dorchester Days, Many Voices Press, Massachusetts
1983.      50 Hours:  The Birth of Henry Harry, Many Voices Press, Massachusetts
1986.      Exploding Into Life, Aperture, New York
1987.      Below The Line:  Living Poor in America, Consumer Reports Books, New York
1989.      The Knife and Gun Club: Scenes from an Emergency Room, Atlantic Monthly Press,     New York
1994.      Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, Aperture, New York
            Americans We, Aperture, New York
1997.      Eugene Richards, Nathan Editions, Paris
2000.      Dorchester Days, Phaidon Press Ltd., London
2001.      Eugene Richards: 55, Phaidon Press Ltd., London
2002.      Stepping Through the Ashes, Aperture, New York
2004.      The Fat Baby, Phaidon Press Ltd., London
2008.      A Procession of Them, University of Texas Press, Austin
    The Blue Room, Phaidon Press, Ltd., London


1992.      Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue
2000.      But, the day came
2003.      The run-on of time
2004.      A Procession of Them
2006.      Nothing Short of a Miracle
Stepping Through the Ashes
War Is Personal: Tomas Young


Fellowships and Grants
1973.      National Endowment for the Arts Grant
1978.      Massachusetts Council on the Arts Grant
1980.      Guggenheim Fellowship
1983.      National Endowment for the Arts Grant
1985.      New York Foundation on the Arts Grant
1987.      New York State Council on the Arts Grant
1989.      Gahan Lectureship, Harvard University
1990.      National Endowment for the Arts Grant
            New York State Council on the Arts Grant
1996.      Hasselblad Foundation Grant
    Kaiser Media Fellowship in Health
1998.      Project on Death in America Artist Fellowship, Open Society Institute
2000.      Project on Death in America Artist Fellowship, Open Society Institute
2002.      NPPA/Nikon Sabbatical Grant
    Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism
2005.    OSI Distribution Grant
2007.    Nation Institute Fellowship
National Geographic Magazine Grant for Photography
2008.    Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography


Awards and Honors
1981.    W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, "Denver General Hospital"
1986.    Nikon Book of the Year Award, Exploding Into Life
1987.    International Center of Photography Infinity Award, Photojournalist of the Year,
    Below  The Line:  Living Poor in America
1988.    Leica Medal of Excellence, Homeless in America
1989.    Canon Photo Essayist Award, "Crack: The Downfall of a Neighborhood"
    American College of Emergency Physicians Award, The Knife and Gun Club
    Lyndhurst Prize
1990.    POY Magazine Photographer of the Year
1991.    Leica Medal of Excellence, "Drugs in America"
1992.    Canon Photo Essayist Award, "The American Family"
1993.    Leica Oskar Barnack Award, "The Nigerian Wetlands"
1995.    Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for Photographic Innovation, Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue
    International Center of Photography Infinity Book Award, Americans We
    Olivier Rebbot Award from the Overseas Press Club, "Children of the Blind"
1996.    POYi Magazine Photographer of the Year
1997.    100 Best People in the World -- Photojournalist, Esquire
1998.    POYi Magazine Photographer of the Year
    Canon Photo Essayist Award, "Surviving in Safo"
    Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Journalism Award
2000.    Best Short Film, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, but, the day came
    Best Documentary, Hope & Dreams Film Festival, but, the day came
    Kodak Cinematographer Award, NY EXPO, but, the day came
2001.    Olivier Rebbot Award from the Overseas Press Club, "Global Willowbrook"
2002.    Golden Light Book Award, Stepping Through the Ashes
2004.    Nikon Storyteller Award, Photo District News, “The Year of the Horse”
2005.    POYi Best Photography Book, The Fat Baby
    100 Most Important People in Photography, American Photo
    Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    25 Most Influential Living Photographers, Photo District News
2007.    Lucie Award for Achievement in Documentary
2008.    Deadline Club Feature Photography Award, “No One Much Cares”
    Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism, “No One Much Cares”


Selected Solo Exhibitions
1972.    Center for Photographic Studies, Louisville, KY
1974.    Half Moon Gallery, London
1977.    Nikon House, New York
    Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
1980.    Visions Gallery, Boston
1982.      Soho Photo Gallery, New York
1984.      Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
1988.      Photographic Resource Center, Boston
             Union Square Gallery, New York
             Amber Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom
             Cameraworks, San Francisco
1989.      Houston Center of Photography, Texas
1990.      New-York Historical Society, New York
             Chicago Historical Society, Chicago
1991.      Smithsonian Institution, Washington
             Minnesota Museum of Art, Minneapolis
             VISA Pour L'Image, Perpignan, France
1992.      Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg
1993.      De L'Ecole Superieure Artistique "Le 75", Bruxelles
1994.      International Center of Photography, New York
1995.      FOTOMASSAN, Goteborg, Sweden
1996.      Bristol-Myers Squibb Gallery, Princeton, NJ
1997.      Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles
1998.      Tremaine Gallery at The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut
             Centre national de la photographie, Paris
             Centre Photographique d'Ile de France, Pontault-Combault
             Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
             Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
1999.      Marlboro College, Marlboro, Vermont
2001.      Center for Photography, U.C. Berkeley
             Gallery of Photography, Dublin
2002.      Aperture’s Burden Gallery, New York
             Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, Florida
    Camera Obscura Gallery, Denver
             Philadelphia Art Alliance
2004.    Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris
Leica Gallery, New York
    VISA Pour L'Image, Perpignan, France
    Leica Gallery, Tokyo
2005.    Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University
    Moving Walls, Open Society Institute, New York
    Gage Gallery, Roosevelt University, Chicago
    Pingyao International Photography Festival, China
2006.      Columbia University School of Social Work, New York
    Hasted Hunt Gallery, New York
2007.      LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, Charlottesville, Virginia
2008.      401 Projects, New York
2009.      Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles
    Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles