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Edwin Smith

On photographing cathedrals and parish churches

The cover of 'English Cathedrals'.Olive's dedication to me on the inside cover.In 1990, Olive Cook gave me a signed and dedicated copy of 'English Cathedrals', which had just been published. In the Foreword she says that the book was needed because relatively few of Edwin's photographs of cathedrals had ever been published, yet it was a subject to which he was considerably drawn.

It is interesting also because it contains his 'last' photograph – or at least so Olive believed until I discovered a roll of unprocessed film in a camera of Edwin's that she later gave me. That 'last' photograph, of Canterbury, is reproduced to accompany the text below.

In the 1971 re-issue of Edwin and Olive's first collaborative book, 'English Parish Churches' (originally published in 1952), Olive included an article that Edwin  had written about his experience of photographing in cathedrals and churches. This text forms the main body of this page.
In the considerably revised and expanded reprint of 'Parish Churches' of 1971, the detailed architectural drawing that Edwin devised to illustrate the evolution of the English church was also reproduced. I have included it here not only because of its interest but also to show that he was indeed a very competent architectural draftsman, as befits his training as an architect.

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Edwin Smith Recollections

These recollections, by people who knew Edwin Smith, where published to accompany the exhibition of his work held at The Minories Gallery, Colchester, in 1974.

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Edwin Smith – The Last Exposures

These photographs were on the roll of film that still lay, undeveloped, in Edwin's Ensign Autorange camera when Olive gave it to me in 1993. I processed the 22 year-old roll with great care and was astonished to find it contained usable images.

Edwin Smith's Ensign Autorange camera.The film was Kodak Verichrome Pan 120 and had sat in the camera since the day these pictures were taken all those years ago. I phoned Kodak Ltd and sought their advice on development. I was advised to use increased amounts of anti-foggant in a standard D-76 formulation - and hope for the best! The latent images survived and were surprisingly clear, although the base fog level on the film had increased enormously.

They are the last photographs ever taken by Edwin Smith as he became increasingly incapacitated by pancreatic cancer and died later that same year. He never saw them, except through his viewfinder at the time of exposure.

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Daily Telegraph: Edwin Smith's England

Evocations of Place, by Robert Elwall.Christopher Howse celebrates the nostalgic photographs of Edwin Smith and the glorious, changing landscape that inspired him 50 years ago.

An article in the Daily Telegraph, 2007, by Christopher Howse

"A photographer who conveys the apparent timelessness of England's landscape, and its vulnerability, is Edwin Smith".

Read the full article here.

Bomarzo and the Sacro Bosco

Earth Goddess, Bomarzo, Italy, 1960-63, by Edwin Smith ©RIBAIn the days when I was printing Edwin Smith's negatives for Olive Cook, his widow, she would sometimes give me copies of his original prints as gifts. This was always a great honour, as she was extremely protective of the work he left behind, particularly any prints he had made himself.

This is one example, which I received sometime in the early 1990's. Although given to me framed, I never hung it as the makeshift mount was one made for a landscape print and this was portrait format, so it didn't look right at all. The frame was also old and battered, so recently I took it apart to cut a new mount and re-frame.

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The mysterious case of a village, its mermen and an airport.

A Study of Anstey, by Olive Cook::Published in 1969, this slim volume is a unique insight into Hertfordshire village life in the 1960s.How can a small village in Hertfordshire be linked to mermen and London's third airport?

In 1969, as part of the organised opposition to proposals to site London's third airport at one of four locations in the Eastern region, the Nuthampstead Preservation Association commissioned the author and historian Olive Cook to compile a study of a typical village in the area threatened by the plans. She chose the village of Anstey and engaged her husband, the photographer Edwin Smith, to record a cross-section of the village environment and its residents. Anstey was chosen because: "...its topographical, architectural and sociological features seemed to typify those of the whole district...".

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