Bill Brandt was born in Germany, and moved to England when he was around 30 years old. He began documenting British people, at a time when this wasn’t a common way to make photographs, and published two books in the 1930s. He then went on to shoot photos for popular magazines, and became one of the greatest British photographers.
This book, Bill Brandt: Shade & Light (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) is a retrospective of his work. Published by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has acquired a number of his photos, the book gives an introduction to his life and work, then presents photos in a number of categories: London in the Thirties, which combines some street photography type shots with pictures of the well off; Northern England, which looks at the working classes; World War II, which presents some stunning photos of empty London and air raid shelters; then his quirky Portraits, Landscapes, and Nudes.
Brandt’s vision was incisive, honest, and he often has an eye that shows things in ways that were not common at the time. I especially like how his portraits put people in interesting contexts and situations, and his nudes have a touch of surrealism. His landscapes are often minimalist, and it’s easy to see why Michael Kenna cites Brandt as an influence.
This is a fascinating book of understated photographs. Here are some sample photos from the book: