David Newell-Smith (1937-2017) had a distinguished career as a photojournalist from 1964-1978. His extensive oeuvre is preserved in the Guardian News and Media Archive, which ranged from the glamour and celebrity culture of the Swinging Sixties to the conflicts, tragedies and social deprivation of the time. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, holds a range of his black-and-white photographs and the National Portrait Gallery, London 91 black-and-white portrait photographs of famous politicians of the period. The introductory line to David’s obituary, in the Observer on 22 July 2017, sums up his achievements: ‘….an Observer photographer who helped establish newspaper photography as an art form’.
In 1964, Sonya and David were married and on future travels she would accompany him as an assistant. In the 1960s Sonya’s career began as a freelance photo-journalist. From this early period exists a series of black-and-white photographs of various railway stations in London, reflecting Sonya’s artistic talent. Deciding to pursue a career in the field, she was soon offered freelance work for the Sunday Telegraph and the Times, and commissions from Italian magazines.
In 1978 they decided to change their way of life to spend more time together. Following their successful careers as photojournalists they founded the renowned Tadema Gallery in Islington’s famed Camden Passage. Their field of specialisation was first 20th Century Abstract Art and the decorative arts of the 19th and 20th Centuries, followed by a passion for artist designed jewellery from about 1860 till 1960, with significant designers from the Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Jugendstil and Art Deco movements. Tadema Gallery, having closed in 2018, now continues online.
Sonya Newell-Smith, and her Street Photography Today
During the 1960s and 1970s Sonya Newell-Smith was a freelance photojournalist who worked for the Sunday Telegraph, the Times and various Italian magazines. She was self-taught under the guidance of her late husband David Newell-Smith (1937–2017), a distinguished photojournalist for ‘The Observer’. From this early period exists a series of black-and-white photographs of various railway stations in London, reflecting Sonya’s artistic talent. In May 1971 a Portfolio of her work was published in the British Journal of Photography under her maiden name Sonya Hirsch.
Over 53 years she shared the love of photography with her husband David. Following his death in 2017 she continued to pursue her passion, and in 2021 was a finalist in the DPSP Street Photography Awards. Sonya’s work was published in X-Posure in February 2022. More recently in July 2022 during the Venice Biennale she had a solo-exhibition titled ‘Decisive Moments: Brick Lane London’ at Galleria arte spazio tempo in Venice.
Sonya is a passionate Street Photographer and in her daily life the camera always accompanies her, to capture a decisive moment on the move. The focus of her images are people seen in everyday life, their interactions and emotional connections – be it love, humour or sadness. The location and their surroundings create the atmosphere which is integral to the storytelling. To finish with a quote by Sonya: ‘Real life people are the actors, human relationships the action. My camera lens is the eye through which I explore the world around me with its fantastic variety and eccentricity in the search for the perfect visual narrative.’
TRIBUTES FROM PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES
Former Observer picture editor, photographer and author
David Newell Smith discusses his work with Bryn Campbell
British Journal of Photography, 31 March 1967
Former Observer picture editor, and deputy head of photography
David Newell-Smith: ‘There is nothing I would rather do than take photographs’
The Guardian 22 July 2017
Sonya Newell-Smith (née Hirsch) British Journal of Photography, 21st May 1971,
Portfolio: Sonya Hirsch
Prof.Dr., Oxford , and Istanbul, Documentary Photography
Sonya’s ‘Brick Lane Street’s’ Series: X-POSURE The Magazine for Photographers, February 2022 , pp.18-37
Exh. cat. Decisive Moments: Brick Lane London with foreword by Pia Parolin, Galleria arte spazio tempo, Venice 2022
by Bryn Campbell
PUBLIC COLLECTIONS AND PUBLICATIONS
Guardian News and Media Archive
National Portrait Gallery, London
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
TADEMA GALLERY LONDON
Beatriz Chadour-Sampson and Sonya Newell-Smith, Tadema Gallery London, Jewellery from the 1860s to 1960s, arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart 2021
By Phyllis Schiller, in Rapaport Magazine, July 2021, pp. 44-46
By Clare Phillips, in Jewellery History Today, Issue 44, Spring 2022, p. 15