This photograph, “Spanish Wake,” captures an intimate scene upon the death of a villager. It was captioned in LIFE magazine: “His wife, daughter, granddaughter and friends have their last earthly visit with a villager.”

This image is a part of Eugene Smith’s photo essay “Spanish Village,” published in LIFE magazine in 1951. The iconic set of photos depicted the small rural village of Deleitosa, Spain, under the rule of dictator Francisco Franco.

In the original photograph, two of the women had been looking toward the photographer. In the darkroom Smith printed their eyes much darker and applied bleach with a fine-tipped brush to create new whites areas, redirecting their gazes downward and to the side and altering the mood of the photo.Eugene Smith admitted to his use of staging and retouching in

an American Society of Magazine Photographers meeting in 1956, claiming that, “I ask and arrange if I feel it is legitimate. The honesty lies in my—the photographer’s—ability to understand...I will retouch.”

""'I didn’t write the rules — why should I follow them? Since I put a great deal of time and research to know what I am about?'"
- The New York Times, "Discussing Honesty in Imagery"

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Image copyright W. Eugene Smith