Blyth, Alfred

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Blyth, Alfred

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1901-1980

History

Alfred Blyth was born in 1901 in Ayrshire, Scotland, and came to Edmonton in 1912 with his widowed mother and elder brother and sisters. It was in 1916 that he commenced his career in photography, working as a darkroom technician for Byron and May, commercial photographers. That firm was purchased by McDermid Studios in 1917 and Blyth began carrying out studio and "onlocation" assignments for his new employers. At this time he obtained some very interesting photographs of Katherine Stinson, the pioneer woman aviator on her visit to Edmonton in 1918, the return of the 49th Battalion from overseas in 1919, and many more. By then his interest in photography as a creative medium had been sharpened; he had already purchased a camera for his own use and begun taking pictures for pleasure.

Blyth remained with McDermid Studios until 1928, when he opened his own studio, engaging in commercial and news photography, much of it on contract. He shot some newsreel features for Fox Movietone News which quickly attracted attention to the quality of his work. His business prospered and he soon became one of Edmonton's leading photographers.

Blyth flourished in the hey day of the photographic salon and exhibited his best pictures throughout the world, gaining many prizes including a number of gold medals as well as honourable mentions and acceptances. At one 1500-print exhibition in Amsterdam, the grand award went to his picture "Break O'Day," depicting the serenity of early morning at one of Alberta's most famous beauty spots, Maligne Lake. Many of Blyth's photographs appeared in national and international publications.

Blyth used three cameras on location: a 4 x 5 Graphic view camera for his weddings and similar formal groups, a 4 x 5 Graflex for action, and an 8 x 10 view camera for his major landscapes and views. These cameras, all used with standard lenses, are now in the Provincial Museum of Alberta. Alfred Blyth retired from active business in 1970, but his interest in photography did not diminish. Two years after his retirement, his photographic collection and his certificated of merit were acquired by the Provincial Archives. He died in 1980 at the age of 79.

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