Luther Smith Photography Collection

The Luther Smith Photography Collection was acquired in 2022. Processing has now wrapped on the collection, and it is available for use. The collection contains the photographs, negatives, slides, papers and publications of Emeritus Professor of Art Photography, Luther Smith, of Texas Christian University.

Smith lived in Mississippi for ten years as a child, then moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he later attended college at the University of Urbana/Champaign. Many of the photographs in the collection are of people the photographer has known over the years, including friends, colleagues, and family members. In the college years of the 1970s, Smith experimented with infrared photography in the form of portraits which were then exhibited or published in photography journals or exhibition catalogs. He later attended the Rhode Island School of Design for graduate work, where he continued his studies in photography.

Smith returned to the University of Illinois after graduate school for a teaching position where he began work on his High School series of images. These images continued when he moved to Texas in 1983, exploring imagery which evolved into the High School Rodeo photographs. Both subjects provide literal snapshots of student life throughout the 1980s along with their activities and demonstrate what adolescent life was like in a community where horses and cattle are such a strong part of the Texas identity.

Luther Smith is also a landscape photographer whose work contains images of the Trinity River, a project to which he devoted considerable time beginning in the early 1980s. His book, Trinity River, was published by TCU Press in 1997. The book and photographs are a historical record of the river, along with its many streams and branches which span throughout the eastern part of Texas.

In his ongoing series of nature images, Smith incorporates a unique color palette into his photographs. The images in this series are vibrant depictions of the local landscape and are part of the artist’s Where I Live photographs. His eye for color and composition forces the viewer to take a deeper look at their ordinary surroundings in an appreciation of the natural beauty of the environment. Indeed, many images have been elevated to unearthly levels, where one may consider what our impact is as human beings who constantly alter our environments, and not always for the better.

In 2018, Smith retired from Texas Christian University, where he worked for 35 years. The exhibit My Time at TCU featured photographs of the artist’s work and included images from 45 years of his life. He continues to work and exhibit at William Campbell Gallery in Fort Worth. Smith’s work is included in the collections of the Amon Carter Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Museum of South Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Illinois State Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Arkansas Arts Center and other noteworthy institutions.

For more information on the collection, please visit the finding aid.

View digitized items from the Luther Smith Photography Collection in The Portal to Texas History.