Edinburgh photographer’s snaps of life in 1950s on display for first time

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They are drawn from a treasure trove of images capturing everyday life in Edinburgh half a century ago.

But none of them have ever been shown in public and the photographer is almost completely unknown.

A boy drinking cola in Stockbridge. Picture: Robert Blomfield

A boy drinking cola in Stockbridge. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Now Robert Blomfield, an amateur photographer who wandered the streets of the city in the late 1950s and 1960s in search of subjects, is being honoured with his first major exhibition in the city to mark his 80th birthday.

Blomfield,who spent ten years in Edinburgh, is being recognised nearly 20 years after being forced to give up his hobby after suffering a stroke. The City Art Centre in will display around 60 of his huge personal archive of black and white images after being approached by his family, who had spent years cataloguing and digitising more than 1,000 photographs.

Running from November to March, it will recall how Blomfield, who moved from Sheffield to Edinburgh in 1956 when he was 18 to study medicine, did all of his own developing and printing at home in makeshift darkrooms.

Previously unseen portraits of children playing in the capital’s streets will be on display alongside images of buses on Princes Street, construction work on the Forth Road Bridge and police officers observing the aftermath of an accident on Queen Street.

Two girls in Blackridge in 1966. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Two girls in Blackridge in 1966. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Among the highlights are images of two women with chickens at their feet, which was taken in the city’s West End, couples strolling through Princes Street Gardens after dark, and Edinburgh University students drinking coffee at their union building.

A spokeswoman for the City Art Centre said: “Robert Blomfield adopted an unobtrusive fly-on-the-wall approach, seeking interesting or amusing scenes in the rapidly changing post-war period. An engaging manner and healthy disrespect for authority allowed him to get close to a myriad of subjects, taking photographs that are in turn tender, bold and humorous.”

Blomfield, who used a pair of Nikon F SLR cameras, said: “After 50 years I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my pictures with the wider world. The exhibition represents a personal view of life on its streets during the 1960s.

“Edinburgh is a city that remains close to my heart and the interaction of its residents with this most dramatic of urban stages provided me with endless inspiration as a young photographer.”

The Forth Road Bridge under construction in 1962. Picture: Robert Blomfield

The Forth Road Bridge under construction in 1962. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Blomfield’s brother, Johnny, said: “Robert was always a totally amateur photographer. He started developing an interest when he was around 13 at boarding school. He did all his own developing and printing from the start, and was taking wonderful pictures very early on.

“We all thought that it was time that these photographs should be seen by more than just his family. We knew there was something there that ought to have a wider audience. We have approached various people, including at the National Museum of Photography at Bradford, but because he did not have a ‘name’ they seemed in capable of realising what we were offering.

“We thought someone in Edinburgh would maybe be interested. The City Art Centre took one look at them and said they would love to show them. We were pushing on an open door and were very happy to let them have the first exhibition, although the photographs going on display are only really the tip of the iceberg.”

The 60 going on display were selected from around six times as many as that. It was tough deciding what should go in the exhibition.”

Edinburgh University Student Union in 1964. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Edinburgh University Student Union in 1964. Picture: Robert Blomfield

Donald Wilson, culture convener at Edinburgh City Council, which runs the gallery, said: “This exhibition of vintage street photography will strike a chord with anyone who grew up in 1960s Edinburgh and bring back so many memories.

“It will also appeal to the residents of this wonderful city today and to visitors, who will be able to draw comparisons between then and now, with some areas of Edinburgh having changed beyond recognition.

“The City Art Centre is the gallery of the people of Edinburgh and the perfect place to showcase his stunning work.”

A picture of photographer Robert Blomfield at work

A picture of photographer Robert Blomfield at work