Smith was an architect and surveyor from Norwich, and also a prize winning landscape painter. In the early 1860s he designed and managed the building of a studio for photographer John Sawyer in Ipswich. When the building was completed Smith went to work for the firm as a colourist. In 1865 he moved on to manage Sawyer's new studio, which Smith bought in 1867. The 1871 census recorded Walter Azemberg Smith, artist and photographer, in Ipswich with his wife Emily and their 3 children. Smith and family were still in Ipswich in 1881, and Smith gave his occupation for the census as 'Photographic Artist and Landscape Artist in Oils'. Smith won prizes for photography, and his paintings and drawings which he exhibited at the studios. In 1883 he moved to Southampton to form the partnership with Edwin Debenham working from a studio at 1 Sussex Place, Above Bar. Debenham left for the North of England in 1887 Smith continued to trade as Debenham and Smith at Sussex Place. Smith lived at Forest View and worked in Southampton for the rest of his life.
The 1891 census recorded artist and photographer Smith living with his wife, her mother, and one servant at 10 Forest View, one of a terrace of houses on the top of the medieval sea walls. The views across Southampton to the New Forest, which must have attracted landscape painter Smith to the house, are now obscured by a shopping mall.
The 1911 census listed Smith as a widower, still living at Forest View. His occupation was recorded as Photographic Artist 'carried on by self at 149 Above Bar under the name of Debenham and Smith'. The entry also noted:- 'The above premises are used for business purposes only, no one sleeping on the premises'. From 1898 numbers 136-150 Above Bar were the premises of the Tyrrell and Green Department Store. Tyrrell and Green was a high class department store with a wealthy clientele, providing upmarket goods and services. As well as offering high quality clothing and household goods, the store employed commissionaires, page boys, an Italian chef in the restaurant, hairdressers, and photographic portraits taken by Walter Smith.