Talented photographer with a big heart

Ben’s early years were in Gloucestershire, but he was grounded in Norfolk, where he’d often return to visit family – and to appreciate and document its subtle landscape. He was gentle, generous and loved to share a laugh; it was easy being around Ben.

Christ Church Spitalfields

Ben’s first commission was in 2009, for a run-of-the-mill building study – a school in Saltaire (he made it look good). My first strong memory of just how talented an artist he was came the following summer, when he shot Peckham car park – and its art show – for a piece I was writing comparing top-down (Strata, in Elephant & Castle) with ground-up development (the car park) in south London.

And he did some long shots, too, placing the building in its wider south London context. One snap sticks in the mind: it shows the car park, with high-rise council housing behind, the railway running alongside, Victorian brick arches at ground level, and, crowning the top deck, the red roof of the Lebbeus Woods-like parasitic structure more commonly known as Frank’s (a restaurant and Campari bar). You can see commissioned artworks too, and there’s a tree in the foreground. For me, it’s Peckham, where I lived for years, personified.

Rory Olcayto, former editor of the AJ:

Peckham Car Park

Ben was there before me on the day, setting up the space – organised as ever. When Foster showed up for the shoot, he matter-of-factly told us that we had just five minutes of his time and best get cracking. Ben shot me a look. A portrait of a starchitect and we only had a handful of minutes. I said his PA had promised us 30 minutes. Foster looked surprised.

I’ll forever treasure that experience together, me as his much sought-after assistant, photographing Norman Foster for those minutes.

  • Ben’s family has asked that those wishing to donate money in his name do so in support of the Hoopsfix Foundation, a community interest company that works to raise the profile of basketball in the UK. The Foundation is currently working on the renovation of Ben’s local court at Ducketts Common, Haringey. All donations mentioning his name will be earmarked for this project. For more information, visit hoopsfixfoundation.org

Brad Yendle, former AJ art director:

We met playing football initially. He had a nice touch for a big lad and our friendship blossomed. He was soon documenting all our projects; his expertise and assured eye quickly won trust. He’d insist we pare back the domestic settings to a near-sculptural form, hiding and re-organising all the clients’ bits and bobs to get the shot, then invariably struggling to remember where to put them all back.

For the AJ100 shoot in 2015, we’d discussed two shots: a graphic profile of Norman Foster that worked as a cover, against a backdrop and then an environmental portrait for the article inside the magazine.

Ben was always up for an AJ shoot – be it big in scope, or small. He was very proactive and super positive. Our running joke on the phone was he’d always ask for a paid assistant and I’d always have to say no. The golden days of big budgets at EMAP were in the rearview mirror. But Bloss always made the meagre budget work.

Ben was a beautiful person, a great father and a very talented photographer. There really wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. He always backed himself, even if he was in a corner, and the results were always exceptional.

Source:Ben Blossom

Source:Ben Blossom

He died in December after being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer just the previous month. He leaves behind his wife Phoebe and young sons JJ and Louis. 

Sulimaniye Mosque

Ben and Brad were close: Ben helped Brad pack up his house when he was moving his family to Australia in September

Source:Ben Blossom

Kevin Gauld of Gauld Architecture:

Ben Blossom was a former AJ contributing photographer. A photographer of both people and places, his clients included Denizen Works, Bureau de Change, West Architecture, 3XN, Stantec, Gruff Architects, and the Sorrell Foundation, as well as publications such as Apollo Magazine and Wallpaper*.

He’d often encourage me to coax the house dog or cat into shot. Last summer we documented a house in the Cotswolds and, belatedly deciding on an early morning shoot, ended up sharing a twin room at the Swindon Travel Lodge. Sleep-deprived, the next afternoon he had me persuading a Rottweiler into position with a winning mix of laughter and biscuits. I’ll always treasure those long, happy days.

Anthony was a friend and an admiring colleague of Ben’s

Ben, nonplussed, calmly directed Norman into position. Within several minutes, Bloss had our cover shot in the bag. Then we cracked on for his seated portrait. Foster had recently curated an art show at his Nimes art gallery so I tickled his ego and mentioned that I’d been there while on holiday and loved it. This bought us an extra maybe six or seven minutes and, as we chatted, Ben diligently snapped away, calm as a cucumber. Norman then asked if we were done. Ben and I shot each other a final ‘yeah, I reckon’ look, replied ‘yes’ in tandem and he briskly walked off with his suit jacket over his shoulder. It was short, but Ben had done it.

We hosted the site-specific exhibition series Passen-gers and, during the inaugural series, much of the artists’ responses had been contained within our office in the Brunswick Centre. Ben proposed a community photography project, titled Villagers to explore the ‘village’ concept that had inspired its architect, Patrick Hodgkinson, by asking residents and users of the building to document each other using disposable cameras. The result was a collective portrait that captured the social identity of the Brunswick with some unassuming, yet wonderful, results. Villagers, as with Ben’s previous projects Free Smile! and Bethnal Green Gardens’ Courts used the camera as a tool to explore the social relations that a place or architecture might foster.

Two other commissions we worked on together have stayed with me. One was for our Halloween issue in 2014. It saw Ben photographing Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields – mimicking exactly an Eddie Campbell drawing from the Alan Moore-penned graphic novel From Hell (for an article on a new Hawksmoor book). The image he made captured that building’s hypnotic creepiness. For campy good measure, the art editor splattered the cover image with blood (digital blood) – with Ben’s approval, naturally. We were always a team. (Believe me, few photographers would’ve been cool with this!)

Alison Brooks

Source:Theo Blossom

pEAce + lOVe



منبع

So many of us will miss Ben. We’re all thinking of his wife Phoebe and their lovely boys, JJ, 10, and Louis, 7.  A big guy (Ben made you feel safe) but gentle, always, and funny and curious too. We’ll miss everything about how Ben was. But we’ll remember him even more.

As well as framing the strange artworks commissioned that year by Hannah Barry and Sven Mundner for their organisation Bold Tendencies – a giant fleshy blob, neon lights arranged like signage on the car park walls, a sculpture of SpongeBob SquarePants on a motorbike on the building’s top deck – Ben also captured the mood of the building itself: its vast concrete floorplates with frozen oceans of dark grey lava, and its gnarly, hand-made, urban vibes.

Ben Blossom

Ben was part of a small team of writers, graphic designers and photographers I worked with while I was at the AJ. In retrospect, the magazine and brand of that era, 2008-2016, has a distinct feel and Ben played a key role in giving form to it.

Anthony Coleman, architectural photographer:

Source:Ben Blossom

Ben took responsibility and stepped up, or gave a leg up when he felt it was needed. He provided a comforting presence to us, his many friends and neighbours over the years. We will miss him so much.

Kevin was a close friend of Ben’s and shared an office with him

I was lucky enough to work with Ben throughout most of the last decade -– we were both photographers contributing regularly to the AJ – at that time still largely print-based and published weekly. It was hungry for content and provided Ben and me with many opportunities for picture making, not just as architectural photographers but also documenting the various events the AJ would put on.

Ben took a desk in our office and quickly became an integral part here and at our after-work socials. He often made his views known, advocating the value of simplicity and integrity in his and our creative output. We were fortunate to have his reassuring and welcome perspective on our work. His big heart and love of people pulled him towards community-based and people-led projects.

Source:Ben Blossom

Ben was highly accomplished as an image maker and had a particular flair for portraiture. His warm and gentle nature enabled him to get the best out of some of the giants of the architectural profession, producing intimate and tender portraits of the likes of Peter Zumthor, Alison Brooks, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Santiago Calatrava among others.

Ben produced so many memorable images but one which particularly stays with me is his photograph of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields. Shot in black and white for the AJ’s 2014 Halloween issue, it is loaded with atmosphere and a sense of the uncanny. I shall miss him immensely.

Rory was a friend and colleague of Ben’s working together at AJ to produce covers and features

Norman Foster on cover of AJ, 5 June 2015

This tenderness came through in his architectural photography as well, be it in commissions for the National Trust and the various schools and houses he photographed as well as community projects he worked on.

The big one, I’m saving for last: Ben’s sterling work on Sinan: the First Starchitect in 2015 –  a landmark AJ publication and exhibition celebrating the work of the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. We travelled together to Istanbul, with FCBS, Bureau de Change, DSDHA, RSHP, Ian Ritchie, Reiach and Hall and Sam Jacob Studio to study the 16th-century architect’s major works – including the vast Selimiye Mosque in Edirne on Turkey’s Bulgarian border, and the astonishing Büyükçekmece bridge  (Sinan began his career as a military engineer). Sinan’s work is still too little known in the UK but Ben had a remarkable ability to convey the sensual, monumental, and human qualities of his buildings. One charming snap shows young Turkish women posing for a selfie-stick portrait in the gardens of Sulimaniye mosque.

I got to know Ben first as a professional photographer, then as a friend. But this process was almost instantaneous. As soon as we started working together, we were friends too. Ben was like that – a people person through and through.

Read Rupert Bickersteth’s interview with Ben from 2020, exploring life as an architectural photographer during lockdown:
We’re more aware of the physical presence of one another in the built environment’