Tributes paid as 1950s Edinburgh street photographer Robert Blomfield dies aged 82

Tributes are being paid to acclaimed street photographer Dr Robert Blomfield, who has died at the age of 82 after a long illness.

The news was announced by Dr Blomfield’s publisher Bluecoat Press, following his death on Monday.

Relatively unknown until recently, Dr Blomfield practised street photography all over the UK from the 1950s onwards, beginning in Edinburgh, where he lived for 10 years.

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Dr Blomfield moved to Scotland from Leeds aged 18 in 1956 to study medicine and did all of his own developing and printing at home in makeshift darkrooms.

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Drawing comparisons to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier, Dr Blomfield’s photography displayed a human side. He liked to get close to his subjects, revealing their innermost personalities in the process.

Upon suffering a stroke in 1999, Dr Blomfield was forced to hang up his tripod and his vast collection of urban landscape photography remained largely unseen.

Robert Blomfield, 'Robert Blomfield Photographing Children, Edinburgh', 1966.

More than a decade later, in 2011, Dr Blomfield’s photographs rose to prominence when the family catalogued the collection and digitised a selection of them for an online audience.

In 2018, the City Art Centre in Edinburgh launched an exhibition in partnership with Dr Robert Blomfield and his family, titled Robert Blomfield: Edinburgh Street Photography. Running for five months and coinciding with his 80th birthday, the free exhibition featured around 60 of Dr Blomfield’s images and proved extremely popular.

A book, Robert Blomfield: Edinburgh 1957-1966, was published by Bluecoat Press and a documentary produced by filmmaker Stuart Edwards, hot on the heels of the exhibition.

Leading the tributes was Dr Blomfield’s son, Ed, who said the family was pleased that a book was published to showcase his photography before he died.

In 2018 the City Art Centre launched an exhibition of Robert Blomfield's Edinburgh photographs.

He wrote: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear father Robert. He was a unique character whose gentle nature and warm humour lit up our lives.

"We have been bowled over by the response to his wonderful photographs since they were exhibited for the first time at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, and are particularly grateful to the staff there who made it happen – as well as the filmmaker Stuart Edwards for the lovely documentary which accompanied it.”His pictures live on as both a tribute to the people in them and a reflection of the compassionate eye behind the camera. We’re so pleased to have achieved his ambition to publish a book shortly before he died, and look forward to sharing many more of his images in the future.

Margaret Findlay, Learning and Public Programmes Manager at the City Art Centre, worked on the education programmes and events for Dr Blomfield’s 2018 exhibition.

She said: "Never before have I seen a group of strangers in a gallery bond in front of works of art and leave with shared memories and experiences. It was a joy to work on this exhibition with my colleague Maeve, who curated it, and see the response and love there was for Robert and his work.

Robert Blomfield, Two Women with Chickens, West End, Edinburgh, 1966.

"I will always remember Robert and the precious gift he gave me - the gift of how wonderful art can be and its effect on human nature.”

Publishers Bluecoat Press also paid tribute to Dr Blomfield with a short statement on Twitter.

They wrote: “Very sad news today. Robert Blomfield has died after a long illness.

"He did live to see and enjoy his wonderful book Edinburgh 1957 -1966, street photography at its best.”

Dr Blomfield spent his last years living at home in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, where he moved with his family in 1985.

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