David Newell-Smith

Written by his long time friend and Observer Picture Editor Bryn Campbell.

David Newell-Smith, who has died after a long career in the fields of photography, art & jewellery will be remembered by all who knew him as humorous, creative, talented and loving. Together with his wife Sonya, from whom he was inseparable, David spent the last 40 years of his life exercising his passion and astute eye in collecting and selling contemporary art and then as an internationally renowned jewellery specialist. This followed a long and distinguished career as a staff photographer for The Observer.

David Newell-Smith was born in 1937 in Chislehurst. He joined the RAF in 1955 where he learned his skills as a photographer. When he was de-mobbed in 1960 David freelanced for several picture agencies and the ‘Daily Sketch’ before receiving occasional jobs from ‘The Observer’ which he joined full time in 1964 as a staff photographer.

He joined a small picture department with limited resources, and it was made clear to him from the outset that he would be worked hard and that he should not expect any prime jobs for the time being. It was not long before he proved his versatility and energy, so much so that less than six months later the picture editor sent him a letter with the following wording: “Before I leave the news-room this morning, I want to congratulate you. Seldom if ever can any photographer have had so many pictures published through all the editions of one Sunday’s ‘Observer’. Never, to the best of my knowledge, has anyone achieved such a high standard over so wide a range of subjects – news, business, feature and sport, in a single issue of the paper. Thank you for working so willingly and so well.”

1964 was also the year he married his fiancée Sonya Hirsch, also a freelance photographer. David and Sonya formed an exceptionally close relationship lasting over 50 years which found full expression in Tadema Gallery which they set up together in 1978 showcasing 20th century art, furniture, sculpture, paintings, ceramics and glass. David and Sonya ultimately specialised in jewellery and became internationally renowned for their expert eye and exquisite examples from the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. David and Sonya catered to a wide range of international customers including museums, galleries and private collections as well as many regular visitors to their Gallery in Camden Passage, Islington.

In their valued spare time, David and Sonya pursued their love of street photography and most Sundays were spent in and around Brick Lane documenting the colourful, vibrant street scene increasingly popular with tourists. They produced a series of self-published books on the area and were planning a magnum opus incorporating the best of all the material gathered over many years.

David was taken ill on holiday in Venice and shortly afterwards died in London Bridge Hospital in the arms of his beloved Sonya. As a tribute to her husband Sonya Newell-Smith intends on carrying on their photographic endeavours and celebrating his life as a photographer and will continue Tadema Gallery on line.

25th January 1937 – 11th June 2017