Bill Brandt (1904 -1983) was an influential British photographer whose legacy lives on through his social documentary images of British life in the 1930s and 1940s, high-contrast, distorted nudes and landscapes.
Born in Hamburg, Brandt grew up during World War I. He later disavowed his German heritage and claimed to be born in South London. In 1930, Brandt was introduced to Man Ray in Paris, and it was from this moment that his career was launched.
Brandt began as a photojournalist in the streets of Paris and then in London following his move to England in 1933, but his practice was unique, documenting all levels of British society. He published two books of these sociological studies soon after: The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938). He was a regular contributor to magazines such as Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper's Bazaar. In 1940, the Ministry of Information commissioned him to document the Underground bomb shelters during the Blitz.
During the Second World War, Brandt focused on every kind of subject - as can be seen in his Camera in London (1948) but soon turned his attention to portrait and landscape. Marking the end of the war in 1945 he began a celebrated series of nudes later publishing Literary Britain (1951), and Perspective of Nudes (1961), followed by a compilation of the best of all areas of his work in Shadow of Light (1966). Brandt became Britain's most internationally admired British photographer of the 20th century, capturing British society and his individual subjects with poetic resonance.
In 2004 Brandt received a major restrospective exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and in 2013 was the subject of a retrospective at MOMA, New York.
British Photography / The Hyman Collection