Edwin Smith archive

This outstanding architectural photographer will have his first major retrospective this year

Corner of Dublin Street and Abercrombie Place, Edinburgh New Town, 1964.
Corner of Dublin Street and Abercrombie Place, Edinburgh New Town, 1964. · Credit: Edwin Smith

Edwin Smith’s archive is one of the gems of the Robert Elwall Photographs Collection at RIBA. Acquired in 2002, it reveals the outstanding talent of this British photographer, who will have his first major retrospective later in the year. Smith (1912 – 1971) first pursued a career as an architect and had a lifelong ambition to become a painter, but it was photography that made him a household name in post-war Britain, especially through the texts he was regularly commissioned to illustrate. A number of these  books were devoted to Scotland, including The Making of Classical Edinburgh, published by Edinburgh University Press in 1966. Smith’s images are highly evocative of the beauty of the Scottish landscape and of the elegant restraint of the capital’s Georgian architecture. As this image shows, they also feature moments of everyday life, which the photographer often captured with a touch of humour, aided by his remarkable powers of observation.

Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith opens at the RIBA Architecture Gallery on 10 September 2014.