Edinburgh exhibition will feature the never-before-seen work of a street photographer | Photography
The never-before-seen work of a photographer who captured life in Edinburgh and has been compared to the great Henri Cartier-Bresson is to be displayed at an exhibition in the city where he lived and worked.
Robert Blomfield moved from Yorkshire to Edinburgh and studied medicine in the city while living a second life as a pioneering street photographer who alternated between shooting university students, locals and the landscape of the Scottish capital.
Conservative Daryl Green said it was “amazing” that Blomfield, who has been described as taking “a discreet and on-the-wall approach”, remained relatively unknown for so long.
“In his work we sense echoes of earlier street photographers like Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and we can discern the rich attachment to place we see in contemporaries such as Robert Frank and William Klein,” he said. -he declares.
“While his extensive archive slowly emerges, it is clear that Robert was Edinburgh’s quiet answer to Glasgow’s Oscar Marzaroli, Paris’ Brassaï.”
Born in Leeds and raised in Sheffield, Blomfield received his first camera on his 15th birthday and continued to take pictures until his death in December 2020, but his work – which is said to have been inspired by the adage of Robert Capa, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” – was largely invisible during his lifetime.
The exhibition, titled Robert Blomfield: Student of Light, at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied, is the second major study of his work and follows an exhibition at the City Art Center in Edinburgh in 2018.
Blomfield arrived in Edinburgh to study medicine in 1956 and took a camera with him almost everywhere, even to class, producing lesson and laboratory plans described as unique in their access and composition.
In late 2021, his archive of original prints, films and color slides from Scotland were deposited with the Center for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh.
His images include atmospheric shots filled with smoke inside the student union as sunlight streams in through the windows, while images of an anatomy lecture, a rowing competition and crowds waiting to see Prince Philip in 1958 give an idea of the extent of student life in the city in the 1950s and 60s.
Blomfield took eight years to complete a six-year degree, and he remained in Edinburgh after graduating in 1964 to start as a young doctor in the city’s Royal Infirmary.
Student of Light focuses on Blomfield’s time as a student and will showcase some of his photographic equipment including lenses, enlargers, filters and an astronomical telescope used to achieve great depth of field.
By the mid-1960s, Blomfield was regularly seen with two cameras around his neck. Both were usually loaded with black-and-white film and fitted with different lenses, but he occasionally shot color film.
“Although he had experimented with color since his school days, it was not a regular part of his repertoire,” Green said. “The color film was more expensive and had to be sent to a lab to be developed, and when the slides came back Robert never enlarged them to print them himself.”