Bill Brandt, born into a German-English family in Hamburg on May 3, 1904, spent most of his childhood in Schleswig-Holstein. When he was 16, he fell ill with tuberculosis; for this reason he had to be treated for six years in a sanatorium in Davos (Switzerland). Once he was finally freed, he went to Vienna, where he worked in a portrait studio.
In 1929, he moved to the artist metropolis Paris, where he made acquaintance with Breton, Duchamp, Man Ray and Brassaï. Brandt was Man Ray’s assistant for three months and grappled intensely with surrealism. In 1932 he moved to London, where he worked as a freelance photo journalist for among others "Lilliput" and the "Picture Post". Brandt explored the England of his time in all its facets. He took photographs of noblemen at the horse races, but also the impoverished workers in the industrial cities of northern England. His pictures reflected the situation in England during the global economic crisis and the life of the middle and upper classes there.
In 1936, his first volume of photographs appeared, "The English at Home"; two years later came the volume "A Night in London". During the Second World War, he took impressive photographs of people seeking protection in London’s air raid shelters. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Brandt made a series of striking portraits of artists and writers, among them Francis Bacon and Graham Greene.
After the war, Bill Brandt looked for new challenges, turning away from photo journalism and working with nude and landscape photography. Particularly powerful among these are his nude photos produced by an old Kodak camera and a wide-angle lens – their esthetic qualities are reminiscent of films by Hitchcock or Wells. Brandt photographed the female body, often from unusual perspectives, which led to distortion and at times nearly abstract forms. The corresponding volume of photographs, "Perspectives of Nudes", was published in 1961 and established his reputation as an artist. Five years later, Bill Brandt’s first retrospective took place at the MoMA in New York. His work, which bears unmistakable traits of surrealism and symbolism, has been exhibited and awarded prizes many times over.
Bill Brandt died in London on December 20, 1983.
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