Monday, 8 December 2014

Edwin Smith - Ordinary Beauty

I was so fortunate to find out about the exhibition of photographs by Edwin Smith, held at RIBA, just before it ended last week.  It was fabulous and such an education.  I like to lug my camera around with me, taking pictures of anything that takes my fancy. I attempt to see things differently, to see beauty in the mundane and to home in on the details. Seeing is more difficult than you would think! There is so much to learn but what a lot this collection of photos taught me.  

Part of the charm of the collection was of course that it showed how life used to be, the clothes we wore, the transport we used, the pre-makeover show gardens and interiors, the empty roads with no double yellow lines or parked cars and signs.  So nostalgia may cloud my view I suppose.  

The exhibition included a short film of architects, curators, photographers talking about Smith's work.  Many referred to this particular photo.  It doesn't look particularly interesting at first glance but where does that staircase lead? Look at the light filtering in and the way the benches are at an angle as though they got pushed back as the occupants hoisted themselves to their feet.  The eye is drawn to all corners of the shot. 

As one commentator said, the interiors look as if the people have just left the room and that there is something else happening now just out of shot.

I liked how some bits in the pictures were cut off or left out, such as this cathedral spire.  It made me realise I would probably have unnecessarily tried to include it, to include more. Having a person in the shot, even if from a distance, also completes the scene perhaps to give scale or just to add to the story.  Where are they going?  Where have they been?  Who are they?!  A photo that is meant to be of a building can be enhanced by a person or two, especially if their features cannot be seen. 

Shafts of light also appear in many of the pictures but my favourite was this one of the shirts positively glowing on the washing line.  A mundane scene but still fascinating. 

My mind was flitting all over the place as I looked at the photos.  Each one setting up a story.  The trip into the past was lovely but the photography lesson was an eye-opener.  (As you can see from these 'snaps', I have a lot to learn!)

I left invigorated - and determined to find the black and white setting on my camera.  I might even start a photo log too!

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