Climbing to the Shoulders of Giants: Bill Brandt

August 19, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


Bill Brandt

Self Portrait with MirrorEast Sussix Coast 1966 by Bill Brandt



Head on over to Flickr, Tumblr, or Instagram and the photography is amazing. It is now said that the cell phone replaces the DSLR for most people. Cameras have gotten so good they can virtually see in the dark. The tech companies find it harder to entice prosumers and eager hobbyists with more megapixels and a faster burst rate so they have turned to making cameras that can fly; lifted by the four propellors of a drone and cameras that can hook to your sporting gear to bring an audience with you on your surf or snow board.


"If they go right, you go left.

When they Zig, you Zag."

~Gary Vaynerchuk


With all of these amazing capabilities available to me and every photographer everywhere, I have returned to capturing images on film. I have not found a lot of photography today as expressive, immersive, or desirable as that of the pre-digital era. I decided the best way to move forward with creating art, is to look back.

Bill Brandt:  The first photographer I followed closely and that deeply influenced what I want to create, Bill Brandt first rose to prominence documenting England during World War II for the government.

Shelter Photograph1940 Bill Brandt


Whether it was British citizens sleeping sheltered from German air raids underground along the subway tracks,

East End Wine Merchant's CellarA group of Orthodox Jews studying the Talmud by Bill Brandt

or Orthodox Jewish men studying the Talmud in prayer in a wine cellar,

Man sleeping in a stone sarcophagus in Christ Church.London, 1940 by Bill Brandt

Brandt not only accurately documented the times, but did it in such a way as to transport the viewer into this horrible moment in human history. Still, the light of English perseverance shone through.

Photograph by Bill Brandt

It is said, in many various ways, that a craftsman can depict a perfect likeness of a subject, but a true artist depicts the subject's soul. 

Edith Sitwellby; Bill Brandt For me, it was Bill Brandt who opened my eyes to what a portrait could and should be.

Sir Francis Bacon (Artist)by: Bill Brandt

He photographed many famous performers and artists of his time.

Robert GravesPoet and Novelist by: Bill Brandt Each portrait unique and giving a glimpse not only into their ties to the physical world, but inside their anfractuous minds.

Peter Sellersby: Bill Brandt

His insightful photography was not exclusive to people, however. To me, he captured the definitive photograph of Top Withens. The setting for Emily Bronte's famous novel Wuthering Heights

Top Withensby Bill Brandt

His photography is famous for its rich blacks

The Adelphi1939 by Bill Brandt While never worrying about blown out highlights.

St. Paul's Cathedral in MoonlightTaken during the blackout in London during WWII by Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt opened my eyes to the fact that the act of creating a photograph was not meant to be crammed into a Zone System, or run through a digital sensor and reinterpreted into gray-card perfection.

A Snicket in Halifaxby Bill Brandt

Instead, not unlike his portraits, he strove to depict the soul of the landscape he was photographing. 

Stonehenge with Cowsby Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt was the first one to teach me that rules of photography I held so dear when I was first learning, are meant to be broken.

Blackout in LondonBloomsbury 1939 by Bill Brandt

There is a story of him harassing his printer to have blacker blacks in his published books later in his life. He was excited to see his printer finally got it right, but it was actually a printing error. The printer had to explain that, with ink that thick, the pages of the volume would stick together.

Liquid Nightby Bill Brandt With the limited technology of his time, he elicited emotion in his photography I find rare in images produced today.

Early Morning on the Thames1939 by Bill Brandt

 I can not talk about Bill Brandt without bringing up his work creating fine art nudes.

Campden Hill, Londonby Bill Brandt

Like the rest of his work they are amazing. He was a true pioneer in the art form.

Nude, Londonby Bill Brandt He used a special police camera with an ultra-wide lens.

Self Portrait with Kodak Box Cameraby Bill Brandt Photo Credit: And many of the surreal photographs that resulted were like landscapes themselves.

Nude, Seaford, East Sussex Coast, 1957By Bill Brandt

Though Bill Brandt thought he would most be remembered for his fine art nudes, and many art historians far more knowledgeable than me argue that it is the culmination of his work, that's not my Bill Brandt. That's not what inspired Real Florida Photo.

Misty Evening in Sheffield1937 by Bill Brandt

The reason I study Bill Brandt is his depiction of England.

Brighton Belleby Bill Brandt He photographed every part of it, and seemingly depicted everyone in it.

Nixon Street, Jarrow1937 by Bill Brandt

A quote that drives my work:

"Art is whatever makes you proud to be human."

                 ~Amiri Baraka

Bill Brandt's work embodies this quote to me. He depicted London so thoroughly, and not without a sense of humor. From the very wealthy...

Pupils From Eaton Watching CricketJune, 1933 by Bill Brandt To the hard working and struggling.

Coal Searcher Going Homeby Bill Brandt England was not only the aristocracy

May Fairby Bill Brandt and the people who served them.

Parlourmaid and Under Parlourmaidby Bill Brandt

It was not just the middle class.

Or even the hardworking coal minors. The backbone of English industry.

Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Mealby Bill Brandt

It is the tapestry that his entire body of work creates.

The East End Girl Dancing The Lambeth Walkby Bill Brandt Each finely captured image...
Young Housewife, Bethnal Greenby Bill Brandt

...taking the ordinariness of everyday English life...

Girls Looking out of a Windowby Bill Brandt ...and portraying it and everyone in it as extraordinary...

Peasant in Connemaraby Bill Brandt that all that he photographed becomes realized as an amazing work of fine art.

The Homeby Bill Brandt O.K. Now I'm inspired.

Undergraduate at Workby Bill Brandt I have barely scratched the surface of the work from this prolific photographer. I hope you like my Bill Brandt and encourage you to Google, Pinterest, and Amazon to seek out your own favorites.

See you next week right here at the Real Florida Photo Blog.






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