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Bill Brandt
Dates: British, 1904 - 1983
Biographical Account:

Bill Brandt is considered to be one of the most important photographers of the 20th Century. He was born in 1904 in Hamburg, Germany and grew up there during the First World War.

 

He began his career in the 1920s as Man Ray’s assistant and he learnt a great deal, watching his experiments and learning new techniques. Man Ray was an American surrealist painter and photographer, who was best known for his avant-garde photography of fashion and portraiture.

 

In 1933 Brandt moved to London, where he began documenting society. At this time documentary photography was uncommon and many of his photographs were shown in Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper's Bazaar.

 

He travelled the country visiting Sheffield and the North of England, capturing the Jarrow Hunger marches, the lives of miners and the widespread depression the war was having on Britain. He was inspired by the social contrasts, the wealthy families with servants having cocktail-parties compared to the working class families and slums.

 

‘It is essential for the photographer to know the effect of his lenses. The lens is his eye, and it makes or ruins his pictures. A feeling for composition is a great asset. I think it is very much a matter of instinct. … He must discover his own world.’

 

During the Blitz in the Second World War he was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to documented the bomb shelters of the  London Underground. After the war he left documentary style photography because it had become fashionable and everybody did it. England was returning back to normal and his main inspiration had disappeared.

 

‘Whatever the reason, the poetic trend of photography, which had already excited me in my early Paris days, began to fascinate me again. it seemed to me that there were wide fields still unexplored. I began to photograph nudes, portraits, and landscapes.’

 

Brandt died in 1983 in London.

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