Artist of the Week: Brian Smith

One of my favorite places to shop for new photography books is Los Angeles. Compared to the Bay Area, which is rife with professional programming and computing tomes, Los Angeles is a virtual mecca of film, television, art, and photography books. It was at The Grove‘s Barnes & Noble that I discovered Art & Soul, the latest book from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Smith.

Brian came to mind as my next Artist of the Week when I used his portrait of Elliott Erwitt in week one. Don’t you love synchronicity?


After I saw Art & Soul, a collaboration with the Creative Coalition to promote the arts and arts education, I simply had to add it to my photography book collection. These days, I try to purchase only signed editions so I contacted Brian and asked if he’d sign a copy for me. He agreed and even personalized it for me:


What stands out for me when looking at Brian’s work is what an exceptional technician he is. His photographic range demonstrates an ability to anticipate and capture moments in high-speed/high-stress environments—he won the Pulitzer at age 25 for coverage of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games—as well as to create revelatory portraits using lighting, posing, and interpersonal communication skills, as he did for Art & Soul.

One of Brian’s best known works is of Greg Louganis hitting his head during the springboard preliminaries at the 1988 Olympics. It won a World Press Photo award:

(c) Brian Smith

(c) Brian SmithBrian also undertook a cheeky (pun intended!) project photographing naturalist golfers for Sports Illustrated:

(c) Brian Smith

Most people who attempt to be jacks of all trades end up masters of none, but that really isn’t the case here. Brian has created high-impact photography across many genres, from sports photojournalism to celebrity portraits to editorial and advertising assignments.

(c) Brian Smith

My favorite part about Art & Soul is the juxtaposition of each celebrity’s handwritten notes on the arts with his/her headshot. For example, Anne Hathaway says: “An act of creation is an act of hope. Art gave me my heart.” Love!

Spreads from Art & Soul, (c) Brian Smith

Spreads from Art & Soul, (c) Brian Smith

Brian Smith with Sony a900

Like many of the artists I’ve profiled so far, Brian Smith got his start in photography during high school. He later studied journalism at the University of Missouri and, after graduation, joined the Orange County Register. He has now left behind his work in photojournalism and focuses on celebrity portraits for advertising and editorial clients from his home base in Miami.

For more about Brian Smith, visit his website:, read these interviews from Advanced Photography and FStoppers, or check out this webinar from Photoshelter. You can also order Art & Soul from his website.  

What do you think about Brian Smith’s work? Anything surprise you about him or his portfolio? Let me know in the comments.