Sheldon Museum of Art Main Content


Death of Punch

  • Henry Holmes Smith, Death of Punch.

Jamie Swartz
Graduate Student
Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design

It would be wrong to assert that this work is in a new tradition. Actually the product is an extension of an exceedingly early view that was the photograph was a work of both the physiochemical process and of the human being. 

—Henry Holmes Smith, 1962

Direct representation is noticeably absent in Death of Punch by Henry Holmes Smith. Interested in the expressive possibilities of the photographic medium but disinterested in exacting reproductions of the world, Smith created work by manipulating photographic materials. He explored the aesthetic boundaries of the medium, tapping into its expressive and aesthetic possibilities. 

Smith’s Death of Punch offers the viewer something to contemplate, to gaze into, to interpret without being instructive or demanding. His open-ended, nonconformist spirit still resonates more than fifty years after this photograph was taken. 

* Quoted in Howard Bossen, “Dialogue of Differences: The Writing of Henry Holmes Smith,” Camera Lucida. The Journal of Photographic Criticism (1982): 13.