Reading “Bill Brandt” Introduction by Ian Jeffrey

 

This slim volume provided a summary of Brandt’s work in words and a selection of images taken over his long career in which he appeared to divided up into genres although I am sure these periods overlapped. He published books and worked for various publications including Picture Post and Lilliput. Ian Jeffrey has entitled his introduction “Brandt’s Secrets” and describes his style as “anachronistic” probably as a result of having to learn about Britain (his father’s homeland) from picture books as a child.(Brandt came to Britain in 1933 at the age of 29) The English at Home, his first published book was described as a work of montage and juxtaposition where paired images contrasted themes.

His work for the illustrated periodical has become the standard exemplar of social documentary for the middle part of the 20th century when he documented life in Britain during periods of upheaval and change. His later work, landscape, celebrity portraiture and his surreal nude studies is of a different character although it appears to have evolved from his interest in people and (according to Jeffrey), sex. Here are three images from each of these bodies of work that I was interested in:

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During World War 2 Brandt was employed by the Ministry of Information to record life in the air raid shelters and underground stations in the blitz. This is a typical example of the work that he did at the time.

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His landscapes tend to be dark and brooding and often with figures very small in the frame.

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It is for his nudes that Brandt is best known apparently. Although they are very different in style to any other photographer’s work, echoing the forms of the landscape of which they form a part, I don’t find them particularly attractive. I’m not a big fan of “artistic” nudes either in paintings or photographs.

While I have been aware of Brandt for many years, this is the first time I have looked closely at his work. There is no doubt that he has influenced a generation (or two) of photographers. I was recently looking through my black and white archive from the 70’s . I think you can see where I got some of my ideas and inspiration from, even if it was subconsciously.

 Going Home

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