COUNTRY DOCTOR (1948)
W. EUGENE SMITH (*)
Seguimiento al Doctor Ernest Ceriani en el pequeño pueblo de Kremmling, Colorado. Considerado como el primer ensayo o "foto historia", corriente del fotoperiodismo moderno.
HE MUST SPECIALIZE IN A DOZEN FIELDS
THE DAY'S FIRST OFFICE CALL is made by a tourist guide and his baby, who have come to Kremmling from an outlying ranch. Ceriani's patients are of all ages and income groups and come from doctorless areas as far as 50 miles away.
HOME CALL at 8:30 a.m. starts Ceriani's day. He prefers to treat patients during office hours at the hospital, but because this printer had a fever and symptoms of influenza Ceriani thought it would be unwise for him to get up and make the trip.
X-RAY PICTURE is explained to a rancher by Ceriani, who developed the negative himself. In addition to the X-ray machine, the hospital contains about $10,000 worth of equipment, including a $1,500 autoclave and an oxygen tent.
MINOR EMERGENCY disrupts Ceriani's office routine. This 60-year-old tourist, suffering from a heart disturbance aggravated by a trip through an 11,000-foot pass in the Rockies, came to the hospital to get an injection of morphine.
BROKEN RIBS, the result of an accident in which a horse rolled on this patient, are bound with adhesive tape by Ceriani. Many of his hardy patients walk in with injuries which would make city dwellers call at once for an ambulance.
ANOTHER HOME CALL turns up a feverish 4-year-old suffering from acute tonsillitis. Although a large proportion of his patients are children, Dr. Ceriani is still inexperienced in pediatrics and studies it whenever he has an opportunity.
PROBLEMS OF AGE—in this case a slight deafness complicated by deposits of ear wax—are daily brought to the doctor. Here, in an operation chiefly important for its effect on the patient's morale, Ceriani removes the wax with a syringe.
AN ACCIDENT INTERRUPTS HIS LEISURE
AT 4:15 two friends start to give fisherman Ceriani a ride to Gore Canyon in a railroad motor car. Dr. Ceriani's moments of relaxation are rare and brief. Last month, taking a chance that he would not be missed for three hours, he asked two employees of the Denver and Rio Grande to take him out on a railroad gasoline car to Gore Canyon.
There he fished alone in the rapids of the Colorado, working expertly over the white water for almost 30 minutes. Suddenly he saw the car coming back up the canyon far ahead of time, and automatically he commenced to dismantle his fishing rod. Ceriani had no feeling of resentment at the quick end of his excursion; he merely stood still waiting for the car to reach him, wondering what had happened and hoping that it was not serious. When the car arrived Chancy Van Pelt, the town Marshal, hopped off and said, "Little girl at the Wheatly ranch got kicked in the head by a horse. Can you come now?"
AT 5:00 Ceriani begins his day's fishing in the boiling, trout-filled rapids of the Colorado River.
Lee Marie Wheatly, aged 2 1/2, was already in the hospital when Ceriani arrived. While her parents watched he looked for signs of a skull fracture, stitched up a great gash in her forehead and saw that her left eyeball was collapsed. Then he advised the Wheatlys to take their child to a specialist in Denver for consultation on removal of the eye. When they left Ceriani was haggard and profoundly tired. He did not remember that he had been fishing at all until, on his way out of the emergency room, he saw his rod and reel lying in the corner where he had thrown them.
AT 5:30 Kremmling's town marshal has come after Ceriani and they start back to take care of an emergency case.
THE CHILD'S PARENTS watch in anguish (left) while Ceriani examines their daughter. The hospital's two nurses, one of whom is on duty in the hospital at all hours, had tried to check the flow of blood from her forehead and had given her a dose of phenobarbital while Ceriani was on his way back from fishing trip.
HAVING DONE HIS BEST for the child, Ceriani is worn out and tense as he completes the emergency treatment. He has stitched the wound in her forehead so that she will have only a slight scar, but already knows that nothing can be done to save her eye and tries to think of a way to soften the news for her parents.
HE SETS A BADLY DISLOCATED ELBOW
CERIANI HELPS carry the painfully injured boy into the hospital.
Young Robert Wiggs had a dislocated left elbow. He had been to a rodeo in nearby Granby, had a few beers and tried to ride a wild horse. When he was brought by his friends to the hospital, he was in great pain and swearing loudly. "Don't tell my mother," he said.
Dr. Ceriani X-rayed the arm. Then, because it was necessary to give Wiggs ether, he questioned him about the beer he had drunk. Wiggs said, "Only a few," and the operation proceeded. The boy's friends and a nurse held him while Ceriani set the joint (next page) and made a cast for it.
HE PULLS AT THE BOY'S ARM to bring the elbow joint back into place.
As the effects of the ether began to fade, Wiggs began groggily to repeat, "Don't tell my mother." At this Ceriani glanced across the table. There stood Mrs. Wiggs (next page), who had been notified of the accident and had rushed to the hospital in time to hold her son's hand during the last of the operation. Ceriani grinned at her, trying to convey two ideas. One was that her son would be all right. The second was that Ceriani himself was a man who might not long ago have had a few beers and tried to ride a wild horse, and therefore did not think this affair was one of the utmost gravity.
THEN CERIANI APPLIES A CAST while the half-conscious boy murmurs, "Don't tell my mother," not realizing his mother his holding his hand.
BEFORE THE AMPUTATION Ceriani checks Mitchell's blood pressure.
Old Thomas Mitchell had a gangrenous left foot. He was 85, and when he was brought to the basement emergency room three months ago it seemed unlikely that he would live long. But he survived, and when Dr. Ceriani came to tend him he would say, "I want to see the mayor. When is the mayor coming?" as though such a visit would clear up the trouble.
For a long time Dr. Ceriani postponed the inevitable amputation, afraid that the old man could not survive it. Twice he told the nurses, "Tomorrow I will do it," but when tomorrow arrived Mitchell had grown weaker
IN THE OPERATING ROOM the old man receives a spinal anesthetic.
Finally the old man rallied and Ceriani hastily made his preparations. With great gentleness he carried his patient up to the operating room, gave him a spinal anesthetic and cut off his left leg below the knee. The old man, conscious but with his vision blocked by a screen, was not aware of what was being done and did not discover that this leg was gone until long after. He continued to say, "My foot hurts," while Dr. Ceriani, busy now with other cases, sighed in relief. Last week the old man was much improved and asking with increased spriteliness to see the mayor.
...AND AMPUTATES A GANGRENOUS LEG
BECAUSE THE HOSPITAL HAS NO ELEVATOR, Ceriani picks up his patient in the basement ward to carry him upstairs to the operating room.
AN OLD MAN DIES AT NIGHT
IN THE PARLOR Ceriani tucks a blanket around the dying man before taking him out into the night.
A few minutes before midnight the people in Joe Jesmer's house called Dr. Ceriani to tell him that Joe was very sick. Ceriani put on a cloth jacket, went over there quickly and found 82-year-old Joe dying after a heart attack. He was still conscious, but in his pain and bewilderment he felt that he was somehow trapped and needed rescuing. He continually said, "Please, please get me out of here."
IN THE KITCHEN, while the women whisper, Ceriani telephones the priest to tell him that the old man will not live through the night
AT MIDNIGHT Joe Jesmer's womenfolk stand silently around the door to see him taken away.
Ceriani and Chancy Van Pelt got Joe onto a stretcher (left), while Helen Watson, a roomer in Joe's house stood watching quietly and without tears. Ceriani called the priest, asking him to come to the hospital. Chancy and he carried Joe out to the ambulance and drove off. There was nothing Ceriani could do except make Joe comfortable and watch him die. At about 2:30 it happened. He left the hospital then and went home, finding his wife asleep and his own house as quiet as all the rest in town.
COMMUNITY ABSORBS MOST OF HIS TIME
THE HOMELY WOODEN BUILDINGS and wide treeless streets of Kremmling stand on a 7,000-foot plateau beneath the towering Rocky Mountains.
THE DOCTOR AND FAMILY watch a parade in Kremmling. Ceriani holds 11-month-old Gary, while wife Bernetha steadies 3-year-old Philip on the rail.
THE HOSPITAL, one block away from Ceriani's house, is a neat white wooden building with three separate wards which can accommodate a total of 14 patients.
Kremmling lies on a 1 1/2-mile-high plateau on the edge of the Rockies. Tourists and transcontinental travelers find the country beautiful, as does Ceriani, who also finds it advisable in bad weather to take chains, blankets, an ax and a can of beans with him on trips to ranches in the hinterland. The town itself consists of about 150 small buildings, including the hospital (left, bottom), and a few old log cabins. Mrs. Ceriani, who came from rural Colorado, was already familiar with this environment and adjusted easily to it. She faithfully reminds him to send out his bills — which are far lower than those of an urban physician — and has long since grown used to emergencies at all hours and to the sudden collapse of her plans to see a movie or play bridge. She has learned to accept all the problems of her husband's career except one. Even after four years of marriage, she is still unable to reconcile herself to the fact that his time is not his own. She and her two young sons must see him at unpredictable intervals, on special occasions (left, top) or simply fall asleep waiting for him to finish his work.
After an operation which lasted until 2 a.m., Ceriani had a cup of coffee and cigaret in the hospital kitchen before starting home. The nurses constantly admonish him to relax and rest, but because they are well aware that he cannot, they keep a potful of fresh coffee simmering for him at all hours.
(*) W. Eugene Smith, reportero gráfico, nació en Wichita (Kansas) en 1918 y falleció en Tuscon (Arizona), en 1978.
Smith se graduó en la Alta Escuela del Norte de Wichita, en 1936. Empezó su carrera realizando fotografías para dos periódicos locales, "The Eagle" y "The Beacon". Se mudó a New York y comenzó a trabajar para el Newsweek y comenzó a ser conocido por su incesante perfeccionismo y su personalidad. Eugene Smith salió de Newsweek por rehusarse a usar cámaras de formato medio, uniendose a la revista Life en 1939. Pronto dimitió de su puesto en la revista Life y fue herido en 1942 mientras simulaba una pelea para la revista Parade.
Trabajó como corresponsal para la publicación Ziff-Davis, y de nuevo para la revista Life; Smith fotografió la Segunda Guerra Mundial desde las fronteras de las islas americanas, realizando las fotografías de la ofensiva americana contra Japón y tomando fotos de los marines norteamericanos y de los prisioneros de guerra japoneses en Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima y Okinawa. En Okinawa, Smith fue herido por un mortero. Una vez recuperado, continuó su labor en Life y perfeccionó el ensayo-fotografía, desde 1947 hasta 1954. En 1950 viajó hasta el Reino Unido para cubrir las elecciones generales, en donde salió victorioso Clement Attlee, del Partido Laborista. La editorial de la revista Life se mostraba en contra de un gobierno laborista, pero los ensayos de Smith sobre Attlee eran muy positivos. Finalmente, un número limtiado de fotografías de Smith de la clase obrera británica fue publicada en Life. En la década de los 50 se une a la Agencia Magnum.
Smith se volvió a separar de Life porque la revista había usado sus fotos sobre Albert Schweitzer. Empezó un proyecto documental sobre Pittsburgh, y una serie de libros de sus foto-ensayo. En estos libros, Smith tenía un auténtico control sobre el proceso de edición del libro, llegando a tener una gran fama de incoformista. Murió en 1978 debido al consumo masivo de drogas y alcohol.
En la actualidad, la fundación W. Eugene Smith promueve la "fotografía humana", que desde 1980 premia a los fotógrafos comprometidos en este campo.
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