mike smith

Mike Smith is a graduate of MassArt (BFA '79), and Yale University (MFA '81) and is now Professor Emeritus in Art after teaching photography for thirty-six years at East Tennessee State University. His work has been published in books and magazines such as The New York Sunday Times Magazine, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal.  The NY MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art SF/MoMA and many other major museums have purchased his work. Smith has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the United States Artists Lowe Fellowship, the Tennessee Governor’s Award in the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission Artist Fellowship and a Distinguished Alumni award from MassArt. Smith is currently working on a new book titled, Warning Shots to be published in Heidelberg, Germany by Kehrer Verlag.



Upon my retirement from teaching photography at East Tennessee State University for thirty-six years I had an opportunity to create an exhibition of my recent work held at the B. Carrol Reece Museum. That show was titled, Parting Shots. The works here were chosen from that exhibition.

This selection of works partially represents my response to the national election cycle of 2016. During that year the Republican primary debates, the subsequent presidential campaign and the questionable election results, bestowed upon our country an alarming level of animus and division. Wide-spread bigotry highlighted our nations' growing religious intolerance, continual racial inequality and hatred, profound economic disparity, frightening homophobia, unending misogynistic attitudes and violence against women, our continually escalating gun violence, and a pervasive level of sexism. Those "values" are manifest in these pictures. I include children because their moral compass is subject to daily challenges within this toxic environment. They not only are listening, as is often said, they are also looking. So am I.




BFA, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA, 1977.

MFA in Photography, Yale University, School of Art, 1981.


Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, IL.

The Art Museum, University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Berman Collection, Los Angeles, CA.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.

Columbus Museum of Art, OH.

Denver Art Museum, CO.

Dow Jones Collection.

Sir Elton John Collection, Atlanta, GA.

The Hallmark Collection at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO.

Houston Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX.

LaSalle National Bank, Chicago.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA.

Martin Margolies Collection, Miami, FL.

Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.

Opryland Hotel. Nashville, TN.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA.

Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, KY.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA.

Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, IN.

Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN.

Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio.

University of Michigan, School of Social Research.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

Whitney Museum, New York, NY.

Yale University, New Haven, CT.




Discontent: Recent Photographic Works by Mike Smith and Leslie Tucker, Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, TN


Mike Smith: Parting Shots, Reece Museum, Eastern Tennessee State University, John City, TN.


The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. Through Jan. 8, 2017 – travelling show through April 2018.


Take One: Contemporary Photographs, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA.


An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Mike Smith: Photographs of Appalachia, The Fine Art Museum, Western Carolina University, NC.

Horizons 20/21, Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, IN.


Mike Smith Photographs, The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington." (2009-2010 Robert C. May Endowment Lecture Series)

Yesterday & Tomorrow: Issues in Contemporary Photography, Ruschman Art Gallery, Indianapolis.


Easy Rider, Yancey Richardson Gallery, NY

New Acquisitions, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

New Acquisitions, Asheville Museum of Art, Asheville, NC


You're Not from Around Here, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.


You're Not from Around Here: Photographs of East Tennessee, Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, IN.


Country, Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, TN.

Beautiful Landscapes and Strange Things, Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC.

The Shape of Tennessee, Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville, TN.


Mike Smith Photographs, Juanita Kreps Gallery at The Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC.

New Acquisitions New Work, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA.

Obsession, Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco.


About Face, Rena Branston Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Recent Acquisitions, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland OH.

Picturing Modernity, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The Alchemy of Light, Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, TN.


You're Not from Around Here, Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Visualizing the Blues, Dixon Gallery, Memphis, TN.

Mike Smith: Color Photographs, Carol Ehlers Gallery, Chicago, IL.

What's New, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

Southern Exposure, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach.

Mike Smith: Color Photographs, Jackson Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA.

Mike Smith, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN.


You're Not from Around Here, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY.

American Modernism from Stieglitz to Today, Carol Ehlers Gallery, Chicago.

Humidity, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta GA.

Wm. Christenberry / Mike Smith, Carol Ehlers Gallery, Chicago, IL.

Inside, Outside, Robert Mann Gallery, NY.

Introductions 1999, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta GA.

Some Southern Stories, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago IL.


Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY.

Measure of Nature: Landscape Photographs from the Permanent Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL.


Mike Smith, Recent Work, Slocumb Gallery, Johnson City, TN.


East Tennessee State University Faculty, Holland Smith Gallery, Huntsville, AL.

Tracking Transition, Wm. King Art Center, Abingdon VA.


Fellowship Recipients, Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery, Nashville TN.

Windows on Tennessee, Memphis Art Museum, Memphis TN.


Mike Smith, Midtown Y Gallery, New York, NY.

Windows on Tennessee, Cheekwood Fine Arts Center, Nashville, TN.


Windows on Tennessee, Ewing Gallery of Art, Knoxville TN.

Tennessee Christmas, Wm. King Arts Center, Abington VA.


Nothing Personal, Tusculum College, Greenville, TN.


Living Artists-Photographers, Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN.


Arrowmont School for the Arts, Gatlinburg, TN.


Asheville Museum of Art, Asheville, NC.


Selected Publications

Harper's Magazine, January 2009, "Dante, Virginia," 7-page photo essay.

Critical Regionalism by Douglas Reichert Powell, UNC Press 2007

Ledger. Poetry by Susan Wheeler. University of Iowa Press. 2005

You're Not From Around Here: Photographs of East Tennessee by Mike Smith, Center for American Places/Columbia College Chicago, 2004.

New York Times Magazine, January 27, 2002.

New York Times Magazine, July 29, 2001.

New York Times Magazine, July 22, 2001 (cover story).

The Oxford American, March 2001.

New York Times Magazine, Dec. 16, 2000.

New York Times Magazine, Nov.19, 2000.

A Thousand Hounds, by Raymond Merritt & Miles Barth (Taschen, 2000).

Visualizing the Blues; Images of the American South, by Wendy McDaris & John Grisham (The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, 2000).

DoubleTake Magazine, July 2000 (volume 21).

Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2000 Art and Collecting "Betting on Photo Futures."

The New Yorker, Nov 15, 1999.

New York Magazine, Oct. 25, 1999.

New York Times Magazine, March 7, 1999.

Blind Spot, Issue 12, November 1998.

DoubleTake Magazine, March 1998 (volume 12).

Art Papers, March/April 1998 (volume 22, issue 2).

DoubleTake Magazine, December 1995 (volume 3).




USA Lowe Fellow 2011.


13th Annual Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture, University of Kentucky, Lexington.


John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

Tennessee Governor's Distinguished Artist Award.

ETSU College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award.

Juror, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, Photography Award.


Finalist, Alfred Eisenstadt/LIFE Magazine New Talent Award.


Henry M. Buhl Foundation Photography Grant.


Tennessee Arts Commission Artist Fellowship.