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Edwin Smith (1912-1971)

Edwin Smith (1912-1971)
Opened the eyes of a generation’

When Edwin Smith died in 1971 he was famed as a recorder of the nation’s traditional landscape and architecture.

Born in 1912 in Camden, London, Smith showed an artistic aptitude throughout his schooling, and in 1928 he won a scholarship to study architecture at the Northern Polytechnic, Holloway. Moving, two years later, to study at the prestigious Architectural Association, Smith’s clear intention was to design rather than document the nation’s buildings. However, his father’s abandonment of his family led to Smith’s premature departure from the course. This, compounded by his dissatisfaction with modernism, resulted in his increasing reliance on photography to make a living.

Smith had been fascinated by photography since buying his first Kodak Box Brownie at the age of fifteen, but must have initially found this development disappointing. Nevertheless, through the artistic circles in which he mixed, he began to win regular commissions from British
Vogue and also the Marcus Brumwell Stuart Advertising Agency.

While much of his early commercial work was affected by the requirements of his employers, once free of the tyranny of the art director there were hints of the brilliance to come.

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