The impressions left on the paper are what is most worthy of our attention. Smith's photographic notations of life as she travels through it reveal an individual who responds with wonder to the world's activity. The comfortable distance between Smith and what is before her suggests a restrained, gentle and almost spiritual relationship to the world. There is no urgency or aggression in her view. It is as if she does not want to inject herself into the world and dispel its magic or disrupt its machinations. We see a weary Duke Ellington floating across a television monitor, an African-American sailor and a street in an unidentified country where the façade of a building is plastered with posters bearing the faces of Anwar Sadat and Saddam Hussein. We see lyrical family pictures of her husband and child, an enchanting Eiffel Tower, a simple view of a cloud-filled sky, a lily pond, and people gently rocking on a swing one summer afternoon. On one level, these impressions describe a dream world, a kind of somnambulist's journey through life. We imagine the photographer in a state of reverie during which only the strongest experiences make a lasting impression. For the viewer, they are experiences in which we can luxuriate and come to know without the pressure of polemics or programmatic political stances.
In an age when art is self-conscious and mercilessly analytical of itself and rarely gives us access to the artist's life experience, the work of Ming Smith is welcome. Through her book of photographs, we experience an intimacy with Smith's emotional and intensely felt life. Her generosity in making it available to us is precious, for through her travels in the world, we can begin to measure our own journey and to access our own place here.
Susan Kismaric, Curator
Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art
A Ming Breakfast: Grits and Scrambled Moments, 1991