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Hidden in a shoebox: vintage Edinburgh shots that were nearly lost – in pictures

The Guardian - Tue Feb 23 07:00

  • Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street, 1960

    Between 1957 and 1966, Robert Blomfield created a substantial archive of life in the Scottish capital. This pursuit ran alongside his medical studies in the city and subsequent years spent as a junior doctor in London. Throughout his medical career, he carried his precious Nikon camera to record whatever caught his eye. Robert Blomfield: Edinburgh 1957-1966 is published by Bluecoat Press (£28)

    Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street, 1960 Between the years of 1957 - 1966 Robert Blomfield created a substantial archive of life in the Scottish capital. This pursuit ran alongside his medical studies at Edinburgh and subsequent years spent as a junior doctor in London. Although a medical career was his first calling, he always carried his precious Nikon camera to record whatever caught his interest
  • Harrison Park, 1960

    For many people, his subject matter would go unnoticed, but Blomfield spotted worthwhile images at almost every turn. Edinburgh, with its labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleyways, was full of quirky potential

    Harrison Park, 1960 For most people, his subject matter would go entirely unnoticed. But Robert spotted worthwhile images at almost every turn. Edinburgh, whose famous landmarks collide with a labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleyways, was full of such quirky potential, and his black and white photographs of the city remain some of his best work
  • Bookmaker outside Aird’s Bar, Arthur Street, 1960

    Born in Leeds in 1938, Blomfield practised street photography from the late 50s to the early 70s. Apart from close friends and family, few people saw his images. Once his prints were dry, they would be put back into their yellow Kodak boxes and would often not see the light of day for many years

    Bookmaker outside Aird’s Bar, Arthur Street, 1960Born in Leeds in 1938, Robert Blomfield was practising street photography in the UK from the late 1950s through to the early 1970s. His photographs went unseen outside of close friends and family for most of his life. Once they were dry, his prints would usually go straight back into their yellow Kodak boxes and would often not see the light of day again for many years
  • Football match at Easter Road, Leith, 1960

    Armed with a Nikon F and using mainly black and white Kodak Tri-X film, Blomfield became ever more prolific, developing his style as an unobtrusive observer of interesting or amusing moments

    Football match at Easter Road, Leith, 1960 Armed with a Nikon F and mainly using black and white Kodak Tri-X film, he became ever more prolific, developing his style as an unobtrusive observer of anything interesting or amusing that might present itself.
  • Arthur Street, 1960

    His striking images captured the changing face of Britain’s inner cities. Children playing in the streets held a particular fascination

    Arthur Street, 1960 The photographs capture striking images of the changing face of Britain’s inner cities. Children playing in the streets held a particular fascination
  • Salisbury Street, 1960

    Blomfield’s obsessive desire to document the world around him became the foundation of his photography

    Salisbury Street, 1960 The obsessive desire to document the world around him became the foundation of his street photography
  • Student Union, Teviot Row House, 1961

    Blomfield was truly an amateur photographer. In 1967, he briefly entertained the idea of pursuing photography as a career after several shots by him were selected for the British Journal of Photography. However, he feared that working to a brief would take away much of the enjoyment, and he stuck with his medical career

    Student Union, Teviot Row House, 1961
  • Forth Road Bridge under construction, 1962

    The striking modern architecture of the emerging Forth Road Bridge attracted his attention, and he took numerous pictures of its construction. He was a keen climber and ascended the catwalk by moonlight one evening

    Forth Road Bridge under construction, 1962 In 1962, the striking modern architecture of the emerging Forth Road Bridge attracted his attention. He took numerous pictures of its construction and, being a keen climber, took it upon himself to ascend the catwalk one evening by moonlight
  • Calton Hill, 1964

    Children in particular caught his eye as they played, finding joy often in the midst of poverty. Many of his shots evoke a seemingly more innocent and carefree world

    Calton Hill, 1964 Children in particular caught his eye as they played, finding joy often in the midst of poverty. His many shots of the local youth provoke a nostalgic twinge for a seemingly more innocent and carefree world
  • June 1965

    To describe Blomfield as a street photographer is misleading: he would capture anything that struck him wherever he happened to be

    June 1965 To call Robert Blomfield a ‘street photographer’ is somewhat misleading. In truth, he would capture anything that struck him wherever he happened to be; the street was just one of many sources of inspiration. As he puts it: “I didn’t need to set the stage, the stage set itself. All I had to do was take the photo.”
  • Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, 1965

    A naturally shy character, Blomfield used the camera as a way of hiding in plain sight. His sense of humour and a disregard for authority allowed him to get close to his subjects

    Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, 1965 A naturally shy character, Robert used the camera as a way of hiding in open view. His indomitable sense of humour and a healthy disregard for authority prompted him to get close to his subjects
  • Riego Street, Tollcross, 1965

    The street was just one of many sources of inspiration. He said: ‘I didn’t need to set the stage, the stage set itself. All I had to do was take the photo’

    Riego Street, Tollcross, 1965 His photography style was influenced by several of the greats. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pioneering images inspired him to see more and be seen less
  • Littlewoods, Princes Street, 1965

    The work he produced in this period brilliantly captured the atmosphere of post-war Edinburgh, a city in transition

    Littlewoods, Princes Street, 1965 The work he produced in this period brilliantly captures the atmosphere of post-war Edinburgh, which was a city in transition
  • India Place, Stockbridge, 1965

    Many dilapidated Victorian buildings were in the process of being demolished under the postwar slum-clearance scheme. Blomfield was drawn to these crumbling streets

    India Place, Stockbridge, 1965  Many of the dilapidated Victorian buildings were in the process of being demolished under the ‘slum clearance’ scheme of the post-war era. Robert found himself drawn to these crumbling streets
  • March 1966

    Blomfield had an intimate connection with the people and places he photographed. ‘I think it’s a form of love,’ he said. ‘You should love the picture. I love the photographs. I love the people’

    March 1966 There was an intimate connection with the people and places he captured. “I think it’s a form of love,” he explained “You should love the picture. I love the photographs. I love the people.”
  • April 1966

    His style was influenced by several of photography’s greats. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pioneering images inspired him to see more and be seen less

    April 1966 His photography style was influenced by several of the greats. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pioneering images inspired him to see more and be seen less
  • April 1966

    After sitting for six decades in boxes, Blomfield’s Edinburgh photos were exhibited at the City Art Centre between November 2018 and March 2019

    April 1966 After sitting for six decades in shoeboxes, Robert’s black and white Edinburgh photos were exhibited in Edinburgh at the City Art Centre from November 2018 to March 2019
  • Stockbridge, 1966

    His photographic legacy will inspire generations of photographers for years to come

    Stockbridge, 1966 Robert Blomfield’s photographic legacy will continue to inspire generations of photographers for years to come
  • June 1966 Recently his family began to catalogue and digitise the 1000’s of images in the archive, and are finally in a position to start sharing his wonderful photography with a wider audience https://www.robertblomfield.co.uk/audience
  • Robert Blomfield with Camera, Edinburgh

    In 1999, Blomfield gave up photography and his career as a doctor after a stroke left him paralysed. He retired to Yorkshire and died in December 2000

    Robert Blomfield with Camera, Edinburgh In 1999, Robert gave up photography and his career as a doctor after a stroke left him paralysed. He retired to the Yorkshire Pennines, and set down his camera. He passed away in 2000.