Graham SMITH


Graham Smith (British, b.1947)

Graham Smith was born in Middlesbrough and left the town soon after finishing school. He broke a tradition established over three generations on the Smith side of his family, and did not follow his father into the iron and steel works.After four years away, Smith returned and, by chance, entered Middlesbrough College of Art where he discovered photography. On the strength of photographs taken in and around Middlesbrough, he was offered a place at the Royal College of Art and moved to London with his wife and young child. In 1973, the day after graduating, Smith and his family returned to the North and he joined Amber Films. Six years at Amber was a valuable experience that strengthened his commitment to documentary photography. From 1969 to 1990, Smith mostly photographed in the streets of South Bank and Middlesbrough, the steelworks and blast furnaces, the vast areas of industrial dereliction across Teesside, in the pubs used by his mother and father, and in pubs used by those who made the most of a life exposed to heavy industry in the North East, and by those who struggled to do so. Thirteen years after Smith stopped taking photographs, he started to write. His short essays offer a deeper understanding of the class and culture he was born into. Smith continues to write from his home in the North Pennines, Northumberland. He was married to his wife, Joyce, for fifty years. Her tolerance of an unconventional way of life, and her lifelong selfless support for Smith’s photography and writing were crucial. She died in 2019. They have three children, Gary, Jennifer and Sam.

Smith’s photographic work is featured in the permanent collections of MoMA, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; San Francisco MoMA;the Archive of Modern Conflict, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; National Science and Media Museum, Bradford; Pier 24 Collection, San Francisco and The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.