A Humane Architecture, Photographs of Edwin Smith

 
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A Humane Architecture Photographs of Edwin Smith

Another chance to see – 5 June to 18 September

“an architect by training, a painter by inclination and a photographer by necessity” – Edwin Smith (1912-1971)

Admired by the poet and architectural historian Sir John Betjeman as “a genius at photography”, Edwin Smith was one of Britain’s foremost photographers. At the time of his death he was widely regarded as without peer in his sensitive renditions of historic architecture and his empathetic evocations of place. This exhibition celebrates the beauty and simplicity of the everyday. Photographic prints show images of functional buildings that have evolved within their environment and through their daily use avoiding decoration or elaborate detailing.

Edwin Smith demonstrated a keen visual sense from an early age. As a child, he was shortsighted and would experiment with focal ranges using his first pair of spectacles. At 15 he bought his first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie. He won a scholarship to the Architectural Association and worked as an architectural draughtsman for several years. In the 1930’s, he became a freelance photographer. Inspired by the French photographer Eugene Atget, Smith produced socio-realist photographic studies of miners, circus people, shop windows and fairgrounds.

After the war he bought an old-fashioned bellows camera, which was very heavy and made of mahogany and brass. The results from this camera spoke of his rejection of both colour photography and the subjects of modernism. The use of long exposures and natural light produced subtle and beautiful images, characterised by stillness and silence.

A Humane Architecture
references Smith’s particular exploration of the vernacular in architecture. Edwin Smith made these images partly due to a realisation that the architecture of traditional British rural life was disappearing. Agricultural buildings of the 17th and 18th century were constructed of the cheapest and most appropriate materials, found locally and adorned with little decoration. In this way, unique styles would emerge from region to region, indicative of the materials and individual skills native to an area. The photographs document buildings that are full of integrity, demonstrating their beauty by being true to themselves. This is architecture that retains the human scale; built in a very direct way by the people for the people.

Although Smith eventually became an internationally acclaimed photographer, he maintained a dedicated painting practice until the end of his life. Indeed, he seemed to privately disregard photography as a lesser form of art than painting.
Smith lived with his second wife, Olive Cook, in Hampstead until 1962 where they had a large circle of artist and writer friends, and also made trips into rural Suffolk, Sussex and Essex, where Smith painted from nature in all weathers. After his death in 1971, Cook bequeathed his large collection of paintings, etchings and drawings to The Fry Galley in Saffron Walden. A selection of these may be seen in this exhibition and represent a unique opportunity to contrast Smith’s parallel artistic output.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) serve as custodians of Smith’s vast archive of over 60,000 photographic negatives, and we are grateful for their support in the production of this exhibition. The photographic prints are produced from these archive negatives, resulting in superior quality prints that are full of charm and character.

The photographs are all silver gelatin prints on archival paper, from original photographic negatives, courtesy of The Royal Institute of British Architects, London Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London. All the prints are for sale and can be purchased online below or at Moray Art Centre. (£400 per framed print, plus £60 P&P.)

Thank you to the exhibition sponsor, Moray Estates.



Available in our Online Shop

Exhibition Sales Edwin Smith

A thatcher working on a cottage roof, Selworthy

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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Cottages, Chelsworth, Suffolk (1953)

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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Door Handle, Coniston, Lake District, Cumbria (1950)

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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House, Burwash, Sussex

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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Limetree Cottage, East Hagbourne

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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Lower Brockhampton House

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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Raglan

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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St Martin, Wharram Percy

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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The Old Cottage, Bury Green, Little Hadham, Hertfordshire (1950)

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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West Gate Street, Blakeney, Norfolk (1956)

Photograph: Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Platinum print on archival paper from original photographic negative. Printed by Peter Guest, Image Black and White, London.

(A shipping charge of £60 will be added at Checkout, this will be refunded if collecting directly from the Moray Art Centre)

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