Think Gordon Parks, but way more intense, and you may begin to capture the essence of Eugene Richards’s photography. It speaks to the most profound aspects of human experience: birth, death, and human resilience amidst dire circumstances.

The first retrospective museum exhibition highlighting his internationally renowned career, Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time, features 130 photographs and opens at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City Dec. 9. The exhibition was co-organized by the Nelson-Atkins and the George Eastman Museum and runs through April 15, 2018.

“Eugene Richards confronts challenging subjects with an impassioned honesty that is at once controversial, lyrical, beautiful and melancholy,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “His photographs illuminate aspects of society that might otherwise remain hidden in plain sight.”

This exhibition highlights recurrent themes: the political, social, and economic realities that shape people’s lives, the strength of familial devotion, and the impact of time and memory on the way we understand personal and societal change.

Richards came to photography in the context of the Vietnam War and the civil unrest of the mid- to late 1960s. In 1967, after refusing the draft on moral grounds, Richards studied photography with Minor White at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he learned the techniques of large format photography and the rewards of close observation. In 1969, he joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), working as a healthcare advocate in rural Arkansas and photographing the people he came to know there. In 1970, he helped found Respect, Inc., a private, non-profit social advocacy agency.

Co-curated by Nelson-Atkins Photography curator April M. Watson and Lisa Hostetler, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum, this exhibition provides a complete understanding of Richards’s career, which is deeply informed by his dedication to social and economic issues.

Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by each of the curators, published by the Hallmark Family Foundation in association with the Nelson-Atkins and the George Eastman Museum, distributed by Yale University Press.

Richards will make several public appearances in conjunction with the exhibit.

To mark the opening of the exhibition, join the photographer for a screening of a selection of his short, documentary films. A Q&A with Richards will follow — Eugene Richards: In Photo and Film. Fri., Dec. 8, 6:30 – 8 p.m., Atkins Auditorium.

Artist Talk: Eugene Richards, Fri., Jan. 26, 6-7 p.m., Atkins Auditorium. Richards will speak about his career and the powerful works in this retrospective exhibition. A book signing will follow.

Reel to REAL: Movies & Conversations, Theme: Drug Wars Sat., March 10: The House I Live In (2012) and Sat., March 17: Dr. Feel-good (2013). Both from 1 – 4 p.m., Atkins Auditorium. Engage in this film-and-dialogue series featuring movies and documentaries that spotlight challenging issues, followed by a conversation between film scholars, subject experts and audience members.

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