W. Eugene Smith

Schweitzer at the Lamp. Lambaréné, Gabon, 1954

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In his final photo essay for LIFE magazine in 1954, W. Eugene Smith documented the work of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, at his leper camp in Lambaréné, Gabon. Smith embedded himself there for three months but became frustrated with the lack of access. He wrote to Schweitzer: “I must leave Lambaréné, for you restrict me and force me to omissions, which indirectly make other photographic statements sometimes impossible.” Schweitzer partially relented. This photograph of Schweitzer appeared in the photo essay entitled “A Man of Mercy” in LIFE’s November 15, 1954, issue. The story’s subtitle reflected Smith’s ambivalence: “Africa’s misery turns saintly Albert Schweitzer into a driving taskmaster.” Smith submitted a lengthy layout for publication. But LIFE crammed it into 12 pages to coincide with Schweitzer’s belated acceptance of his Nobel Peace Prize. Enraged, Smith submitted his resignation, which LIFE ultimately accepted, despite several attempts to reconcile.


Digital gelatin silver print
Open edition
Estate stamped

11 x 14 in / 28 x 36 cm
16 x 20 in / 40 x 50 cm
20 x 24 in / 50 x 60 cm


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