W. Eugene Smith Quotes

Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.

What use having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?

Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.

The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.

Hardening of the categories causes art disease.

Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors.

I try to take what voice I have and I give it to those who don’t have one at all.


I didn’t write the rules. Why would I follow them?

The journalistic photographer can have no other than a personal approach; and it is impossible for him to be completely objective. Honest—yes. Objective—no.

If I can get them to think, get them to feel, get them to see, then I’ve done about all that I can as a teacher.

My photographs at best hold only a small length, but through them I would suggest and criticize and illuminate and try to give compassionate understanding.

I think photojournalism is documentary photography with a purpose.

Available light is any damn light that is available!

In music I still prefer the minor key, and in printing I like the light coming from the dark. I like pictures that surmount the darkness, and many of my photographs are that way. It is the way I see photographically. For practical reasons, I think it looks better in print too.

Negatives are the notebooks, the jottings, the false starts, the whims, the poor drafts, and the good draft but never the completed version of the work The print and a proper one is the only completed photograph, whether it is specifically shaded for reproduction, or for a museum wall.

I’ve never made any picture, good or bad, without paying for it in emotional turmoil.

I can’t stand these damn shows on museum walls with neat little frames, where you look at the images as if they were pieces of art. I want them to be pieces of life!

…and each time I pressed the shutter release it was a shouted condemnation hurled with the hope that the picture might survive through the years, with the hope that they might echo through the minds of men in the future – causing them caution and remembrance and realization.

My camera, my intentions stopped no man from falling. Nor did they aid him after he had fallen. It could be said that photographs be damned for they bind no wounds. Yet, I reasoned, if my photographs could cause compassionate horror within the viewer, they might also prod the conscience of that viewer into taking action.

You can’t photograph if you’re not in love.

What’s the best type of light? Why that would be available light… and by available light I mean any damn light is available.

I am constantly torn between the attitude of the conscientious journalist who is a recorder and interpreter of the facts and of the creative artist who often is necessarily at poetic odds with the literal facts.

With considerable soul searching, that to the utmost of my ability, I have let truth be the prejudice.

The first word I would remove from the folklore of journalism is the word objective.

I was after a set of pictures, so that when people looked at them they would say, ‘This is war’-that the people who were in the war would believe that I had truthfully captured what they had gone through I worked in the framework that war is horrible. I want to carry on what I have tried to do in these pictures. War is a concentrated unit in the world and these things are clearly and cleanly seen. Things like race prejudice, poverty, hatred and bigotry are sprawling things in civilian life, and not so easy to define as war.