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Sam Stephenson. The Making of the Jazz Loft Project: Archives as Resource and Wellspring

White Rose Sign

c. 1957-58
Gelatin silver print. W. Eugene Smith Archive/Gift of the artist

Since 2002, Sam Stephenson has been the director of The Jazz Loft Project (JLP) at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He has studied the life and work of photographer W. Eugene Smith since 1997. His first book, Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project was published by W.W. Norton/CDS in 2001. In 2009, Alfred A. Knopf published his book, The Jazz Loft Project: The Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965.  Currently he is writing a biography of Smith entitled Gene Smith’s Sink, for Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Since 1997, Stephenson has conducted more than 500 oral history interviews, revealing an underground story of jazz and post-War arts unpreserved in the iconography. He co-produced the Jazz Loft Project Radio Series with Sara Fishko and WNYC: New York Public Radio. Stephenson is currently the 2012-13 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Professor of Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. (See presentation video.)