Businessman who 'changed the face' of photographic processing dies aged 68

Richard-Nemar Smith was comfortable behind the camera since childhood

Richard-Nemar Smith was comfortable behind the camera since childhood - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The former owner of a Norwich photography business that changed the face of professional processing for more than 25 years has died suddenly at the age of 68. 

As soon as Richard Nemar-Smith was old enough to hold a camera, he quickly developed a keen interest in taking photos.  

By the time he had reached his teenage years, his grandfather had lovingly turned the family’s downstairs toilet room into a small, but fully-functional, darkroom. This would become a gesture that propelled him into a successful career. 

Mr Nemar-Smith was born on July 4, 1953, at the former Drayton Hall Maternity Home. By 1961, the then Hellesdon-based family had moved to Drayton and, aged eight, Mr Nemar-Smith joined the local junior school. He went on to attend Sprowston High School. 

His mother, Margaret Smith, explained that his passion for photography meant that he always knew what he wanted to do for a career. 

She said: “An elderly gentleman in the village would help him learn how to develop his prints too, before his grandfather – my father – built him the darkroom. It was a small workspace for him but he managed.” 

While studying for his A-Levels at Thorpe Grammar School in Thorpe St Andrew, Mr Nemar-Smith worked at a photography shop in the city. He then went on to study photography for three years at Harrow College of Technology and Art, where he met his future wife, Jenita, an accomplished hand printer. 

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The couple married in 1978 and went to live on a 72ft narrowboat, which they renovated, moored at London’s Rickmansworth. Soon ready for a new project, however, they moved to Norwich where Mr Nemar-Smith began working in the photographic department at Norwich School of Art and Design, now Norwich University of the Arts.  

From there, the couple went into business together and in 1982 opened the photographic laboratory, Reflections. After two relocations, they finally settled in premises in Edward Street, Anglia Square. 

“They did really well while they were in business,” Mrs Smith said.  

“They used to do processing work for exhibitions at the Sandringham Estate, they also worked for a lot of top professional photographers and Jarrold Printing.” 

The owner of one of only two professional labs in Norwich at the time, Mr Nemar-Smith gave up taking photographs to concentrate on running the lab and focused the business on the advertising and industrial markets. Other clients included the Stationery Office, the University of East Anglia, the Sainsbury Centre, and British photographer John Hedgecoe’s 2001 portrait exhibition shown at the National Portrait Gallery. 

Mrs Smith added: “He was a very hands-on individual and creative. He was the sort of person who cared about and helped everyone.” 

In 2007, mindful of the potential redevelopment of Anglia Square putting their premises at risk, combined with the rise in digital photography, the couple decided to sell the business and move to Grenada in the West Indies – a place his mother said he "loved”. 

Mr Nemar-Smith died suddenly on November 12 from a short illness. As well as his wife and mother, he leaves behind his two sisters Karen and Rowena, brother-in-law Tim, nephews, nieces, cousins, and other family members and friends. 

A celebration of his life will take place in Grenada.