A vintage gelatin silver print showing a view of a street of nineteenth-century housing in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The photograph was taken in 1936; this print was issued circa 1960.
Manuscript inscriptions verso read : ‘Northumberland Newcastle’ in ink and ‘Wealth p. 242-3’ in two shades of pencil. A small paper label printed in red reads: ‘England, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.’
Photographed by Edwin Smith, identified by his wetstamp verso.
The photographer Edwin Smith (1912-1971) was noted for his sensitive evocation of place. The poet and architectural historian Sir John Betjeman hailed him as a ‘genius at photography’ due to his ability to make the ordinary rich and astonishing. An exhibition titled ‘Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith’ was held at RIBA in London from September to December 2014.
RIBA holds an archive of 60,000 negatives by Smith. According to their website, he was ‘one of Britain’s finest photographers. […] The recurrent themes of his work – a concern for the fragility of the environment, an acute appreciation of the need to combat cultural standardization by safeguarding regional diversity, and a conviction that architecture should be rooted in time and place – are as pressing today as when Smith first framed them in his elegant compositions.’
According to a review of the RIBA exhibition by Owen Hopkins in Apollo: The International Art Magazine (30 September 2014, available online), ‘There is a haunting feel to many of the photographs; people are almost always absent from the scenes, but a human presence is seemingly inescapable. […] The sense, though, is that those people are not coming back, that even when the photographs were taken, these were scenes of a world that was already lost.’
For a far fuller assessment of Smith’s work see ‘Edwin Smith: A Genius Rediscovered’ by Robert Elwall on Alan Griffiths’ always informative website Luminous Lint.
Condition: the print presents a few faint imperfections in the area of the sky but is otherwise in excellent condition. It is has a very narrow white border at its upper edge and a wider one at its lower. It is unmounted.
Dimensions: the image measures 7.1” by 9.9” (18.2 cm by 25.2 cm).