Interior of miner's tenement
Photograph: E. Smith (1954)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
This interior of a Glasgow tenement (1954) is one of the most powerful, and intriguing images in the RIBA collection.
The architectural elements of this room are hardly distinguished. The walls, unadorned by pictures, are decorated only by distress: spreading cracks and patches of damp can easily be spotted. Ramshackle shutters keep some of the light and cold out from this miserable room. The only distinguished feature is the fireplace, the lit fire enjoyed by the cat. The rest is mean, the flooring and furniture tired.
The photograph throws up more questions than answers. Principally, we want to know how and why it was taken. It is unlike much of Smith’s other photography in the collection. What exactly were Smith’s aims here? Is this part of an effort to document poverty? And what does the bed-ridden man think of his photographer?