W. Eugene Smith, ‘A Sleep of Prisoners’, 1951, Heritage Auctions
W. Eugene Smith, ‘A Sleep of Prisoners’, 1951, Heritage Auctions

Among the approximately 5,500 prints left by Smith at the time of his death, this was the only print of this image and is possibly unique.

Condition Report: Sight silver mirroring to the edges of the print. Hairline scratches in Adams face and near Smith's signature only visible in racking light; In overall very good condition. Dry-mounted to board and matted to 16 x 20 inches.

Signature: Signed with a stylus in the image.

Image rights: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Life magazine, November 12, 1951, pp. 73-77, A Play for Churches, where this photograph is captioned "Held back by an invisible force, Adam (CPL. Adams) is unable to stop Cain from killing Abel as the voice of God (right) calls out, 'Cain, where is your brother?'"

About W. Eugene Smith

Called a fanatic of his craft and, often, "troublesome" by his editors, photographer and photojournalist W. Eugene Smith demanded such perfection of his images that he destroyed most of his early work. He began taking pictures at age 14, initially of airplanes, exploring an interest in aeronautical engineering. Smith went on to study photography at Notre Dame, followed by a job at Newsweek in 1937 (which he was fired from upon refusing to use a medium-format camera.) Smith liked the freedom of smaller cameras, which was particularly important in his combat photography during WWII, where he worked as diligent war correspondent—once hitchhiking 1200 miles to rush deliver film. Smith later helped define photojournalism through his work at Life magazine, and went on to join Magnum Magazine in 1955; he is remembered as a master both technically and in the darkroom.

American, 1918-1976, Wichita, Kansas, based in Tucson, Arizona