Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith

New exhibition and retrospective of Edwin Smith - one of Britain’s foremost 20th century photographers. Accompanied by a season of talks, events & workshops inspired by his unique images.


September 10 2014 • 10.00am
December 6 2014 • 5.00pm


Public Programmes (020) 7307 3699


Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, W1B 1AD, London






Image: 'Ideal' fish and chip shop, London, 1958. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection


Roofscape, Whitby, North Yorkshire. (c) Edwin Smith, RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Roofscape, Whitby, North Yorkshire, 1959.  
© Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

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 features over 100 extraordinary images from a collection of over 60,000 negatives and 20,000 prints given by Olive Cook, Smith’s widow and collaborator, to the RIBA. From images of urban scenes documenting British social life to atmospheric interiors and evocative landscapes overseas, the exhibition also features published books, photographic equipment and 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), and The 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

Discover more about Edwin Smith and the accompanying season of tours, talks, workshops and special events happening at the RIBA and beyond.


Exhibitions at 66 Portland Place are open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm (8pm on Tuesday).

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