21 November - 19 January 2018 | Michael Hoppen Gallery, London
Bill Brandt [1904 – 1983] was a German born photographer who immigrated to the UK in 1933. Although he travelled throughout Europe he adopted Britain as his home and it was here that he produced his finest work. Known for his incisive depictions of the British, both high society and the working class, his distinctive, highly contrasting portraiture and landscapes were frequently shown in magazines such as Picture Post, Lilliput and Harper’s Bazaar where he was a regular contributor. His early photojournalism work gave way to a more abstract vision as his career developed.
Brandt’s influence on the photography world started in the 1960’s when he embarked on a journey to find a new visual language. By using a wide-angle lens often with a distorted foreground he was able to produce a series of remarkable graphic images of both interior and exterior nudes on the Sussex and Normandy coast. Brandt’s signature photographic style of highly textural objects contrasted with the flattened perspective of the images created a uniquely oblique approach.
In 1976 I learnt how to retouch a black and white photograph with a pencil, a magic marker and some beer. My teacher was none other than the photographer Bill Brandt who was a regular visitor to his friend John Hedgecoe who was head of department at the Royal College of Art. I was at the college and asked to bring some prints to a pub opposite the photography department in South Kensington. I will never forget Bill showing me how he retouched his prints using the simple items above.
I have long been an admirer of his work. And though I knew most of it well having bought most of Brandt’s key books - Perspective of Nudes - Shadow of Light – London in the Thirties, etc.. I was delighted and honoured to be given the opportunity to work within the Brandt archive and curate an exhibition of works that are maybe less well known. Within this time capsule, we found wonderful early prints and nudes, which highlighted Brandt’s inquisitive mind and his energetic search for a new way of photographing these well-trodden subjects.
Brandt is one of the few British photographers whose work has been widely seen and collected around the world. His substantial shows at the V&A (2004) and at MoMA in NY (2013) cemented an already illustrious reputation as a fine art photographer and great documentarian. His street photographs of the industrial north of England, his sublime winter landscapes and his insightful studies of the English at Home placed a spotlight on a country that had produced few photographers of this calibre. With this exhibition we will be offering some rare and beautiful vintage prints directly from Brandt’s family collection. With this carefully selected body of work we are providing experienced collectors an opportunity to view photographs never previously offered for sale and at the same time giving new collectors the opportunity to acquire masterpieces which rarely come on to the market.
- Michael Hoppen