Edwin Smith: Photographing Beauty In Everyday Landscapes

"I am an architect by training, a painter by inclination, and a photographer by necessity" - Edwin Smith

Clothes line in Glencaple, Scotland, 1954

Clothes line in Glencaple, Scotland, 1954

“The man who lives through his eyes is continually confronted with scenes and spectacles that compel his attention or admiration and demand an adequate reaction. To pass on without pause is impossible and to continue after purely mental applause is unsatisfying; some real tribute must be paid. Photography, to many of its addicts, is a convenient and simple means of discharging these ever-recurring debts to the visual world.”
– Edwin Smith

 

Kentish Town station, London, 1936.

Kentish Town station, London, 1936.

 

Sir John Betjeman called Edwin Smith a “genius at photography”. To Cecil Beaton, Smith was “an understanding and loving connoisseur of his subject”. Edwin Smith (1912–1971) captured the essence of the places, landscapes, buildings and ways of life he photographed. British people are stoic. Italians are immersed in ancient culture. Smith captures the spirit of he place. He was a master of texture and light. Smith’s widow, the writer Olive Cook, left his archive of 60,000 negatives and to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Robert Elwall Photographs Collection in 2002.

 

35 Hallam’s Lane, Chilwell near Nottingham, 1937.

35 Hallam’s Lane, Chilwell near Nottingham, 1937.

Palace Pier, Brighton, 1952.

Palace Pier, Brighton, 1952.

Herring girls gutting fish on the quayside, North Shields, 1930s.

Herring girls gutting fish on the quayside, North Shields, 1930s.

Smith was born in Camden Town, London, in 1912. At the age of 12, when he left school, he was found to be very short-sighted. He never lost the rapture and amazement that he experienced on seeing the world for the first time through spectacles. Before the war, he took pictures of London sometimes inspired by those of Paris by Eugène Atget, the photographer he most admired.

After the war, he rejected colour photography, finding that with black and white, “Intelligence is re-introduced at almost every step.” He acquired a heavy, half-plate bellows camera of mahogany and brass, made in Altrincham in 1904. “It seemed ridiculously primitive,” his widow remembered. “In fact, it was a camera of the utmost manoeuvrability, and was perfectly attuned to Edwin’s temperament.”
Via

 

 

Campo San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1961.

Campo San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1961.

Roofscape, Whitby, North Yorkshire, 1959

Roofscape, Whitby, North Yorkshire, 1959

Skandia cinema, Stockholm, 1966.

Skandia cinema, Stockholm, 1966.

Two boys on a doorstep, Kilkenny, Ireland, 1965.

Two boys on a doorstep, Kilkenny, Ireland, 1965.

Dumbiedykes from Salisbury Crags. Photograph by Edwin Smith. 1954

Dumbiedykes from Salisbury Crags. Photograph by Edwin Smith. 1954

edwin smith southend

Southend-on-Sea, Essex – 1940s

 

edwin_smith-gateshead-1936

Gateshead – 1936

church_farm_approved_school_east_barnett_1937

Church Farm Approved School- East Barnet, London – 1937

Pincio gardens overlooking Rome, 1970

Pincio gardens overlooking Rome, 1970

Night street cleaning near St Paul's Cathedral, City of London (1957) by Edwin Smith

Night street cleaning near St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London (1957) by Edwin Smith

Fragment of the colossal statue of Constantine the Great, Palazzo dei Conservatori, 1954

Fragment of the colossal statue of Constantine the Great, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome, 1954

Edwin Smith: St Columba’s Wells, Londonderry, Northern Ireland (1965)

Edwin Smith: St Columba’s Wells, Londonderry, Northern Ireland (1965)

View from the Palazzo dello Sport, 1970 rome

View from the Palazzo dello Sport, Rome, 1970

The colonnade, St Peter’s Square, 1960 rome

The colonnade, St Peter’s Square, Rome, 1960

Back-street garden, Camden Town, London, 1960

Back-street garden, Camden Town, London, 1960

Edwin Smith, Farm in the mountains between Auletta and Potenza, Italy, 1963

Edwin Smith, Farm in the mountains between Auletta and Potenza, Italy, 1963

By Edwin Smith, from the author's personal collection.

By Edwin Smith.

Central_markets__West_Smithfield__City_of_London__1953_(c)_Edwin_Smith__RIBA_Library_Photographs_Collection

Central_markets, West Smithfield, City of London, 1953

Lyne_Church__Peebles__Scotland_1967_(c)_Edwin_Smith__RIBA_Library_Photographs_Collection

Lyne Church Peebles, Scotland_1967

Tulip staircase, Queens House, Greenwich, London. Edwin Smith

Tulip staircase, Queens House, Greenwich, London. Edwin Smith

St_Lawrence__Didmarton__Gloucestershire__1962_(c)_Edwin_Smith__RIBA_Library_Photographs_Collection

St Lawrence Didmarton, Gloucestershire – 1962Villa_Garzoni__Collodi__Tuscany_1961_(c)_Edwin_Smith__RIBA_Library_Photographs_CollectionVilla Garzoni Collodi, Tuscany, 1961

Edwin Smith, 'Ideal' fish & chip shop, London, 1958

Edwin Smith, ‘Ideal’ fish & chip shop, London, 1958

 

Via : Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith at the RIBA in London. For more on Edwin Smith, The Golden Fleece is excellent.