Biography | Bibliograpy
Born in Hamburg, Germany, son of a British father and German mother, Brandt grew up during World War I; he later disowned his German heritage and would claim he was born in South London.Shortly after the war, he contracted tuberculosis and spent much of his youth in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. He traveled to Vienna to undertake a course of treatment for TB by psychoanalysis. He was in any case pronounced cured and was taken under the wing of socialite Eugenie Schwarzwald. When Ezra Pound visited the Schwarzwald residence, Brandt made his portrait. In appreciation, Pound allegedly offered Brandt an introduction to Man Ray, in whose Paris studio, Brandt would assist in 1930.
In 1933, Brandt moved to London and began documenting all levels of British society. This kind of documentary was uncommon at that time. Brandt published two books showcasing this work, The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938). He was a regular contributor to magazines such as Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper’s Bazaar. He documented the Underground bomb shelters of London during The Blitz in 1940, commissioned by the Ministry of Information.
During World War II, Brandt focused every kind of subject – as can be seen in his “Camera in London” (1948) but excelled in portraiture and landscape. To mark the arrival of peace in 1945 he began a celebrated series of nudes. His major books from the post-war period are Literary Britain (1951), and Perspective of Nudes (1961), followed by a compilation of the best of all areas of his work,Shadow of Light (1966). Brandt became Britain’s most influential and internationally admired photographer of the 20th century. Many of his works have important social commentary but also poetic resonance. His landscapes and nudes are dynamic, intense and powerful, often using wide-angle lenses and distortion.
Brandt is widely considered to be one of the most important British photographers of the 20th century.In 2004 he received a major retrospective exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Patrick Roegiers, Bill Brandt : essai, Paris : P. Belfond : Paris audiovisuel, ca. 1990.
Mark Haworth-Booth, The Land : twentieth century landscape photographs, New York : Da Capo Press, 1976, ca. 1975.
Martin Harrison, Ten out of ten : Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Barry Lategan, Don McCullin, Roger Mayne, Norman Parkinson, Rankin, Lord Snowdon, John Swannell, Albert Watson, Gottingen : Steidl, 2001.