W. EUGENE SMITH
[1918 – 1978] American photojournalist, war photographer and artist

 
Most photographers seem to operate with a pane of glass between themselves and their subjects. They just can't get inside and know the subject. - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 33
repeats an idea expressed by Edvard Steichen,1987
I think that basically all of my photographs are failures... I'm not saying that as a self negation or anything like that, I just don't judge it upon it upon how "good" it was, but rather upon how I'd fail upon what I was trying to say... I think this [Tomoko in her Bath] personally is the best photograph I ever made, it came to say what I was trying to say... - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 6
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. - W. Eugene Smith
[I crop ] for the benefit of the pictures. The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera. - W. Eugene Smith , Pictures on a page : photo-journalism, graphics and picture editing by Harold Evans , Page: 123
Available light is any damn light that is available! - W. Eugene Smith
Hardening of the categories causes art disease. - W. Eugene Smith
What uses having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling? - W. Eugene Smith
1942: Freelanced, choosing assignments; later felt freedom misused because of creative immaturity; that photographs made had " great depth of filed, very little depth of feeeling." In later repudiation of this period of work, acknowledged that subsequent photography was a logical development of the past and not representative of a drastic shift in values. - W. Eugene Smith , An Aperture Monograph
New York 1969
I would that my photographs might be, not the coverage of a news event, but an indictment of war – the brutal corupting viciousness of its doing to the minds and bodies of men; and, that my photographs might be a powerful emotional catalyst to the reasoning which would help this vile and criminal stupidity from beginning again. - W. Eugene Smith , An Aperture Monograph
of photographs during involvement in World War II
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 completed version a print should be sufficient and fair return for a magazine's investment, for it is the means of fulfilling the magazine's purpose ,,,, The print and a proper one is the only completed photograph, whether it is specifically shaded for reproduction, or for a museum wall. Negatives are private, as is my bedroom .... - W. Eugene Smith
From W. Eugene Smith's letter to Life, refusing to allow the magazine to have possession of his negatives.
Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness. - W. Eugene Smith , Great Images of the 20th Century : The Photographs That Define Our Times by Kelly Knauer (Editor), Inc Time , ISBN: 1883013755 , Page: 80
The belief, the try, a camera and some film - the fragile weapons of my good intentions. With these I fought war. - W. Eugene Smith , Page: 165
"The Best of LIFE”
I...made brash, dashing interpretive photographs which were overly clever and with too much technique.., with great depth of field, very little depth of feeling, and with considerable 'success'. - W. Eugene Smith
What uses having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling? - W. Eugene Smith
I can’t stand these damm 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! - W. Eugene Smith , Dialogue With Photography by Paul Hill , ISBN: 0948797665 , Page: 218
The purpose of all art is to cause a deep and emotion, also one that is entertaining or pleasing. Out of the depth and entertainment comes value. - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 5
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. - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 33
1987
Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors. - W. Eugene Smith
Photography is just a weak voice, but sometimes, only sometimes, one or more pictures can take our senses to the consciousness; photography induces in ocations to so intense emotions that reach the point of reagent of the mind. - W. Eugene Smith , Minamata by W. Eugene Smith , ISBN: 0030136318
1975
Up to and including the moment of exposure, the photographer is working in an undeniably subjective way. By his choice of technical approach, by the selection of the subject matter...and by his decision as to the exact cinematic instant of exposure, he is blending the variables of interpretation into an emotional whole. - W. Eugene Smith , Time-Life - Photographers on Photography
An artist must be ruthlessly selfish. - W. Eugene Smith , Let Truth Be the Prejudice : W. Eugene Smith His Life and Photographs by John G. Morris (Afterword), Ben Maddow, W. Eugene Smith (Photographer) , ISBN: 0893811793
...my pictures are complex and so am I. When I am almost symbolistic in writing, there is a more limiting difference's of accepting, while I can be even more complex in the photographs and people can usually accept them within the framework of their own limitations or lack of limitations – there is no dictionary meaning... they can look up for the photographic image and allow it to confuse them... - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 8
1987
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. - W. Eugene Smith , The picture history of photography: From the earliest beginnings to the present day by Peter Pollack , ISBN: 0500271011 , Page: 165
The photographer must bear the responsibility for his work and its effect …[for] photographic journalism, because of its tremendous audience reached by publications using it, has more influence on public thinking than any other branch of photography. - W. Eugene Smith , The picture history of photography: From the earliest beginnings to the present day by Peter Pollack , ISBN: 0500271011 , Page: 164
The world just does not fit conventiently into the format of a 35mm camera. - W. Eugene Smith
Photography is a small voice, at the best sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them cab lure our senses into awareness…. Someone – or perhaps many – among us may be influenced to heed reason, to find a way to right that which is wrong….The rest of us may perhaps feel a greater sense of understanding and compassion for those lives are alien to our own….Photography is a small voice….It is important voice in my life, but not the only one. I believe in it. - W. Eugene Smith , Minamata by W. Eugene Smith , ISBN: 0030136318
I am an idealist. I often feel I would like to be an artist in an ivory tower. Yet it is imperative that I speak to people, so I must desert that ivory tower. To do this, I am a journalist—a photojournalist. But I am always torn between the attitude of the journalist, who is a recorder of facts, and the artist, who is often necessarily at odds with the facts. My principle concern is for honesty, above all honesty with myself... - W. Eugene Smith
...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. - W. Eugene Smith
I've never made any picture, good or bad, without paying for it in emotional turmoil. - W. Eugene Smith
With considerable soul searching, that to the utmost of my ability, I have let truth be the prejudice. - W. Eugene Smith
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. - W. Eugene Smith
… to became neighbours and friends instead of journalists. This is the way to make your finest photographs. - W. Eugene Smith , Dialogue With Photography by Paul Hill , ISBN: 0948797665 , Page: 219
Many claim I am a photographer of tragedy. In the greater sense I am not, for though I often photograph where the tragic emotion is present, the result is almost invariably affirmative. - W. Eugene Smith , Myth and Vision on the Walk to Paradise Garden and the Photography of W. Eugene Smith by Menning Hansen , ISBN: 9179002668 , Page: 17
1987
I [Smith] use literature, music and I try to get them [the students] to see in a small ways by teaching them responsibility. For instances, I had a little bottle that said SCOTCH on it and I kept ducking behind the desk to pour myself a drink from it. Everyone was wild, taking pictures of me, trying to sneak a picture of me sneaking a drink. After a while I said: “Okay, you’ve been photographing me drinking from this bottle, so you will distribute pictures to show that I drink while teaching. But you’ve never asked me what’s in the bottle. It’s a bottle of cider – you are very bad reporters! - W. Eugene Smith , Dialogue With Photography by Paul Hill , ISBN: 0948797665 , Page: 215
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. - W. Eugene Smith
K.K.K.
Dear _______________ (an editor); P.S. In printing the photographs of the white-gowned Klan members I ran into considerable difficulty. There were several with uncovered faces and these faces were vividly dark in comparison to the white-white of the gowns that it was almost impossible to keep them from appearing black.
I am terribly sorry. - W. Eugene Smith , W. Eugene Smith: His Photographs and Notes by W. Eugene Smith , ISBN: 0893815349
I would that my photographs might be, not the coverage of a news-event but and indictment of war – the brutal corrupting viciousness of its doing to the minds and bodies of men; and that my photographs might be a powerful emotional catalyst to the reasoning which would help this vile and criminal stupidity from beginning again. - W. Eugene Smith , W. Eugene Smith: His Photographs and Notes by W. Eugene Smith , ISBN: 0893815349