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Humphrey Spender
Dates: British, 1910 - 2005
Biographical Account:

Humphrey Spender was born on 19 April 1910. He initially studied art history at Freiburg University for a year, but then turned to a career in architecture studying at the Architectural Association. He was unenthusiastic about this field and went on to set up a photography studio on the Strand, London.


During this time he took many photographs for adverts and magazines and by the mid-1930s his photographs were appearing in the Daily Mirror under the name 'Lensman'.


Humphrey Spender is considered to be a pioneer of the documentary photography. New smaller technology was making it possible for photographers to be less noticeable in public. In 1937 Spender joined the Mass-Observation team taking documentary photographs of Bolton using an unobtrusive 35mm Leica camera. Spender wanted to be "invisible" to his subjects, so he carried as little equipment as possible and often concealing his camera with a mackintosh. Within a year Spender took over 900 pictures of Bolton.


He found the experience of the Mass-Observation very stressful and abandoned his photography in favour of painting and textile design. Spender continued to paint until his death in 2005.

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