The everyday is something most photographers have at some point in their creative journey attempted to document and record. Whether it’s a woman sat sipping tea in a coffee shop, or a businessman running in a pinstriped suit to catch the bus; these fleeting moments often go unnoticed until captured and recorded on camera.
Street photography is a somewhat precarious business; as finding the balance between capturing life as it rolls by, whilst simultaneously avoiding being too intrusive upon ones’ subject, can be a difficult negotiation for any photographer. Yet the sensitivity with which photographer Robert Blomfield depicts his subjects is mesmerising. He maintains a cautious distance whilst still capturing the warm energy of the figures in his portraits.
Blomfield practiced street photography between the 1950s and 1970s, mostly whilst studying to be a medical student at Edinburgh University. He continued his photographic pursuits during his time as a junior doctor in London and reluctantly gave up his camera in 1999 as a result of a stroke. Now retired and following the efforts his family have carried out in digitising his extensive private archive, Blomfield’s collection of photographs are on display for the first time in Edinburgh’s City Arts Centre. Considering Blomfield for the most part shot in black and white and switched only to colour in the 1970s, the curatorial approach has decidedly maintained the monochromatic palette. A striking exhibition of dark, brooding prints and subject matter; Blomfield observed and captured every small detail within the city.
The photographic gaze Blomfield adopts brings his subjects fully to life. Joyful and carefree children smile and laugh through his lens; some posing cheekily with toys and tyres, others turning shyly away, thumbing the pages of magazines. People lurk in doorways, couples kiss on the steps of the Scottish National Galleries and people walk home through elongated shadows of Princes Street Gardens. Through his photographs of Edinburgh, Blomfield has invited the viewer to gain an insight into private instants, capturing mothers holding their children, people walking to work.
The exhibition is a journey back in time, past lives are all immortalised in Blomfield’s watchful and captivating eye. His work is very much reminiscent of photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, Don McCullin or Newcastle’s Chris Killip. Blomfield’s work emits an energy; although frozen in time, the people he captured on camera are bursting with life.
Street Photography, Robert Blomfield, City Art Centre, 24 November 2018 – 17 March 2019