Rick Smith is an assignment photographer based in northeast Pennsylvania with easy access to NYC and Philadelphia metropolitan regions.
For nearly 20 years, Rick has been photographing national assignments for The Associated Press, daily newspapers, editorial magazines, industry trade publications, corporations, colleges and universities.
Rick specializes in large format 8x10 photography. His unique approach has granted him access into the hearts of rugged young cowboys, weathered farmers and flood victims of Hurricane Katrina. After studying photography at the Art Institute of Philadelphia he spent several years assisting editorial and fashion photographers in Philadelphia and New York City before transitioning to the world of photojournalism.
Today, Rick continues to document his project work throughout and accepts national and international assignments.
Apr - Oct 2014: Heart And Soil : Our Farms, Our Legacy; SIGAL Museum, Easton, PA.
Nov 2012 - Jan 2013: PA Photographers Group Show; Banana Factory, Bethlehem, PA.
May 2012: The Nazareth Center for the Arts; Nazareth, PA.
March - April 2008: Broken Levees- New Orleans; Art Institute of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
June - July 2007: Broken Levees- New Orleans: Peach La Tree Fine Art Gallery, Bethlehem, PA.
Allentown Art Museum
The Art Institute of Philadelphia :
March - April 2008 Broken Levees Photographs Celebrate the Unbroken Spirit of Post-Katrina New Orleans Opening Reception: 4:30pm, Thursday, March 6, 2008 Show runs from March 5 – April 18, 2008 As the 2008 Philadelphia Flower Show celebrates the gardens of New Orleans, The Art Institute of Philadelphia alumnus and Associated Press photographer Rick Smith presents another vision of the “Big Easy.” Broken Levees – New Orleans will be on display March 5 through April 18, 2008 in The Art Institute of Philadelphia’s 1622 Chestnut Street Gallery. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, March 6, 2008 from 4:30 to 7pm. It is free and open to the public. Six months after Hurricane Katrina and the following flood devastated New Orleans, Bethlehem-based photographer Rick Smith packed up his antique Deardorff view camera and traveled there to witness the story unfolding just beyond the celebration of the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras. “The intense sense of shock from the devastation totally overwhelmed my vision for the first three days,” says Smith. “But on the fourth day I got to work.” From the Lower Ninth Ward to the streets of the French Quarter, Smith sought out the residents determined to survive and rebuild. Smith’s old-school film camera required him to build a sense of trust with his subjects as he painstakingly loaded the film in his tripod-set camera and arranged the upside-down image on the ground-glass lens. Any sudden movement from his subject would require them to start all over again. The resulting 8 x10 portraits show a remarkable depth of feeling for their subjects. “All these people want is to have their story told,” says Smith. “Because each and every one of them is dumbfounded at how the Katrina emergency was handled – or not handled. They wanted me to be a messenger for help – or at least understanding.”
The Morning Call: Broken Levees : New Orleans
UNFLINCHING LENS FIND RUIN, RESILIENCE IN NEW ORLEANS (June 7, 2007) By Geoff Gehman Of The Morning Call -- Like millions of outsiders, Rick Smith was devastated by Hurricane Katrina's devastation. Like thousands of outsiders, the Nazareth resident went to New Orleans to help. In March 2006, six months after Katrina demolished the Gulf Coast, he became a storyteller with a camera. An invisible broken levee anchors "Broken Levees," Smith's photographs of New Orleans' many moods at Peach La Tree Fine Art Gallery in Bethlehem. A proud, homeless man in the French Quarter shares a wall with a proud homeowner in the ruined Lower Ninth Ward; Mardi Gras drag queens hang next to angry young men by a front stoop missing a house. Taken with an antique 8-by-10 view camera, these black-and-white images have the timely timelessness, the slightly rough grace, of Smith's recent portraits of other fading, clinging traditions: family farms in Lehigh and Northampton counties and a rodeo in Bushkill Township. It was this humanitarian passion, this desire to know places where the past is always present, that led Smith to New Orleans for the first time. Watching Katrina's wrenching, wretched recovery, he realized he needed to help in some way. Photography, his specialty, was easier and truer than cleaning or rebuilding homes. Through photos he could try to recover a city's splendidly spicy spirit. Smith arrived in New Orleans in time for a pivotal event. The whole globe seemed to be spinning around the city's first post-Katrina Mardi Gras. Smith didn't feel so festive. Overwhelmed by block after block of wreckage, he didn't shoot for three days. "I didn't know where to begin," he says. "I literally could not see." Once Smith found his bearings, he began working in the French Quarter, the heart of Mardi Gras. There he shot ecstasy and sorrow, mainstream and margins. Three drag queens nicknamed "The Radical Fairies." A man wearing a tie and coat to dignify his homelessness. Two brothers in their Korean War uniforms. Smith asked the Osmondson siblings why they were dressed in their military finery. Memorial Day, after all, was nearly three months away. Eugene Osmondson, a retired Marine colonel and teacher, said he and his brother needed to know if their uniforms still fit after a half century. Then, with classic Crescent City pluck, he added: "Why not? It's Mardi Gras." Smith discovered a completely different life five minutes away in the Lower Ninth Ward, which Katrina turned into a war zone. He saw front stoops without houses, a toilet in a front yard, residents gloomily saving and junking items from their leveled homes. A surreal scene became unreal as gawking tourists passed by in charter buses. Sensitive in the French Quarter, Smith had to be even more so in the Lower Ninth Ward. He was, after all, a double foreigner: a journalist with a bulky, distracting camera. He approached people without his camera, politely explained his mission and asked if he could photograph them. Virtually everyone agreed. "All these people want is to have their story told," says Smith, 33. "Because each and every single one of them is dumbfounded how the Katrina emergency was handled -- or not handled. They wanted me to be a messenger for help -- or at least understanding." Smith built trust through a painstaking process. He asked his subjects to freeze their pose while he loaded the film in the tripod-set camera, focused the shutter and arranged the upside-down image on the ground-glass lens. Any sudden major movement required him to start from square one. Mrs. Bloodworth was one of the Lower Ninth Warders who stayed still for more than five minutes. In Smith's picture she holds a broom calmly, almost regally, in front of her neat brick home, which, six months earlier, had been buried in water to the top of the doorway. Her determined face illustrates what she told Smith: "I'm not goin' anywhere." Smith found his most compelling story in John Edwards, Mike Lewis and Marshall Wayne, lifelong 24-year-old friends. He met them when they were stripping Lewis' corpse of a car, hoping to sell parts for emergency cash. The friends told Smith a typically remarkable tale of survival. After Katrina demolished their homes, they spent six days on the roof of a gas station/convenience store, drinking floating bottles of water and eating floating Twinkies. The trio agreed to be photographed if Smith bought them sandwiches. After accepting the bargain, Smith shot Edwards, Lewis and Wayne on and around the front stoop of Lewis' nonexistent home, looking like resilient, defiant witnesses. After finishing the session, Smith opened his wallet to give his partners lunch money. All he found was a $100 bill. Being an honorable fellow, he decided to make a very generous donation. Being a discreet fellow, he folded the bill and placed it in Lewis' hand as he shook it. Driving away, Smith looked in his rear-view mirror and saw Lewis running after him. He stopped to accept his new pal's thanks. Smith recently received a thank-you letter from the wife of Eugene Osmondson, the Mardi Gras Marine. She said the photo of her husband in his Korean War uniform had eased his recovery from heart surgery. The news warms Smith's heart; it tells him that in less than a week he became less a visitor and more a neighbor. "New Orleans may be 2,000 miles away, but these are our people," says Smith, who plans to exhibit the "Broken Levees" series at the Art Institute of Philadelphia in August to mark Katrina's second anniversary. "If I can do my part in a compelling portrait, and someone will be moved to ask: What can I do? -- well, that's paying it forward. Because somewhere down the line we all need help." "Broken Levees," photographs of post-Katrina New Orleans by Rick Smith, through July 10, Peach La Tree Fine Art Gallery, 458 Main St., Bethlehem. Artist talk: 6-9 p.m. today at the gallery. Hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Proceeds from the sale of photos will be given to New Orleans charities by the Lehigh Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity. 610-867-4040, http://www.ricksmithphoto.com
The Art Institute of Philadelphia:
PHOTO ALUM RICK SMITH SHARES HIS PHOTOJOURNALISM EXPERIENCES "The work that you do in school today is the work that's going to get you hired tomorrow." That was just one of many great pieces of advice which The Art Institute of Philadelphia Photography Alum Rick Smith had for an overflow crowd of more than 60 photography students and faculty members when he stopped by on March 1 to discuss his work. Faculty Member Bob Cornelius had invited Rick Smith to share his experiences balancing his photojournalism assignments for the Associated Press and the personal projects he pursues shooting on his 8x10 large-format camera. After graduating from The Art Institute of Philadelphia in 1994, Rick started his career as an assistant to editorial, fashion, food, and commercial photographers in Philadelphia and New York City. After six years of managing shoots for others, he changed gears and ventured into the world of photojournalism as a contracted photographer for the Allentown Morning Call and the Associated Press. His assignment work has been published in the Morning Call, New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Newsday, as well as many national (and some international) publications and clients throughout the country such as AARP and the AFL-CIO. "If there's one word that describes what photojournalism is, it's MOMENTS," Smith told the audience. To capture these moments, a photograph must tell a story through its own imagery. Rick Smith presented assignment photographs of diverse subjects: the President and First Lady, the immigration controversy in Hazleton, PA, the recent Amish school shooting. Smith also shared with the group some of the atmosphere which surrounds such high-profile events. In addition to his assignment work, Smith also shared some of his personal project work, including photos from the 2007 Mardi Gras in New Orleans. "I do what I want to do and I touch a lot of people by doing it and that's what's important," Smith says of his more personal work. (Art Institute of Philadelphia article - March 1, 2007)