Artist biography

English photographer of German birth. The son of a British father and a German mother, he suffered the traumas of World War I, followed by a long period of illness with tuberculosis.

Between the ages of 16 and 22.Brandt travelled to Vienna in 1927 to see a lung specialist and was cured. He decided to work in a photographic studio in the city. He took his first major portrait, of the poet Ezra Pound. Pound suggested that Brandt contact Man Ray in Paris. Brandt assisted Man Ray for three months (1929–30). In Paris he discovered Surrealist art in its heyday.

In 1932 he married and settled in Belsize Park, London. From this vantage point, among his English uncles and cousins and their households, he made the photographs that were published as his first book, The English at Home. This book contains some of Brandt's most compelling reportage.

Brandt's second book, A Night in London encompassed social events and strata, with staged scenes where necessary. Brandt's familiarity with the problems of night photography was to be turned to exceptionally vital account during the period of the Blitz (1939–40).

Brandt undertook his sharpest social reporting on his first visit to the north of England in 1937. His photographs of northern cities and of unemployed miners searching for coal were not published until the 1940s.

From 1945 he worked as a freelance photographer in London. A number of his works were published as Shadow of Light.

R. B. Kitaj: ‘R. B. Kitaj and Two Faces of Ezra Pound', Creative Cam., 210 (1982), pp. 536–7
M. Haworth-Booth: ‘Remembering Bill Brandt', V&A Mus. Album, iii (London, 1984), pp. 40–45
Literary Britain—Photographed by Bill Brandt (exh. cat., ed. M. Haworth-Booth; London, V&A, 1984)
D. Mellor: Bill Brandt: Behind the Camera—Photographs 1928–1983, intro. M. Haworth-Booth (Oxford and New York, 1985)
I. Jeffrey: Bill Brandt Photographs, 1929–1983 (London, 1993)
N. Warburton, ed.: Bill Brandt: Selected Texts and Bibliography (Oxford, 1993)


Article provided by Grove Art Online