Vanessa Bell Summer School A Midsummer Nights Dream 1928

Vanessa Bell
Summer School ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ 1928

Courtesy Tate Archive

The interwar years brought an explosion of new techniques, commercial markets and different ways of seeing through photography. The arrival of émigré photographers, the growth of advertising agencies and the influence of avant-garde European publications created a surge of innovatory work.

During the Second World War, photography was used as both publicity and propaganda, with contributions published in the widely circulated magazine Picture Post as well as in morale-boosting illustrated books. The availability of the miniature camera in the early 1930s meant that real life could be quickly captured, allowing moments of intense political action to be documented. Although anyone could have access to a snapshot camera, studio portraitists continued to prosper within the smallest country towns as well as the fashionable streets of the metropolis.

This period saw one of the most significant advancements in photography’s technology, the emergence of colour. As colour printing became available to professional photographers, some of the most original work in photography’s history emerged. At this time Britain – as seen through the photographer’s lens – was a nation of contrasts: a place of war and glamour, of poverty and affluence.

Artists and Archives

John Banting
Cecil Beaton
Vanessa Bell
Bill Brandt
Captain Alfred George Buckham
Winifred Casson
George Garland
Bert Hardy
John Havinden
Percy Hennell
John Hinde
Barbara Ker-Seymer
Angus McBean
Edward McKnight Kauffer
Helen Muspratt
Peter Rose Pulham
Humphrey Spender
Wolfgang Suschitzky
Edith Tudor-Hart
Keith Vaughan
Dorothy Wilding
Madame Yevonde (Yevonde Middleton)