Ordinary Beauty: The photography of Edwin Smith


Exhibition open at the RIBA, 66 Portland Place
10 September to 6 December 2014 

This exhibition is now closed


Hailed by Sir John Betjeman as a ‘genius at photography’ and by Cecil Beaton as ‘an understanding and loving connoisseur of his subject’, Edwin Smith captured the essence of the places, landscapes and buildings he photographed.

Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith will display over 100 extraordinary black and white photographs from a collection of over 60,000 negatives and 20,000 prints given by Olive Cook, Smith’s widow and collaborator, to the RIBA Library. From urban scenes documenting British social history to evocative landscape images and atmospheric interiors, the images displayed reveal the genius and breadth of his work. Alongside his images of Britain the exhibition will show photographs taken on his travels to Europe as well as his published books and photographic equipment. Specially filmed contributions ranging from Alan Bennett to broadcaster Gillian Darley offer personal perspectives of Smith’s work.

Edwin Smith was highly sought-after by publishers and in the 1950s he was commissioned by Thames & Hudson for a series of books, among them English Parish Churches(1952), English Cottages Farmhouses (1954),Scotland (1955),England (1957) andThe Living City: A New View of the City of London (1957). His work also featured in Vogue, Shell Guides and numerous other publications to illustrate features and books on subjects varying from Great Houses of Europe to The Wonders of Italy.

'Ideal' fish and chip shop, London, 1958St Lawrence, Didmarton, Gloucestershire, 1962Roofscape, Whitby, North YorkshireSt Columbas Wells, Londonderry (Derry), Northern Ireland


Buy the book and calendar that accompany this exhibition

View the full season guide on events this autumn at the RIBA below or download the pdf(621kB) 



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Ordinary Beauty: The photography of Edwin Smith - Top Four Results

Online exhibition Alan Bennett on Edwin Smith

Alan Bennett on Edwin Smith

Discover what Alan Bennett thought of one of Edwin Smith's images from the RIBA's latest exhibition

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Edwin Smith (1912-1971) was one of Britain's finest photographers, his work was frequently featured in exhibitions and publications.

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Edwin Smith fishanschipshop