Bill Brandt (British, May 2, 1904–December 20, 1983) was a photographer famous for his photojournalism work documenting aspects of British life. Although he was born in Hamburg, Germany, he disowned his German heritage and said that he was born in London. In 1929, he started his photography career in France. The country was a leader in the movement to use photography as an artistic statement instead of just a documentary endeavor. While he was in Paris, Brandt was influenced by the work of Man Ray (American, August 27, 1890–November 18, 1976), and studied at his studio.
Brandt returned to England in 1931, and took up photojournalism. His main interest was the varied socio-economic contrasts that he found among the British people. Brandt published two books about these photographs: The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938). One of his best series is a set of pictures showing coal miners from northern Great Britain during the Depression. Coal Searcher Going Home to Jarrow is the most well-known of the series.
After World War II, Brandt’s style shifted back to the artistic, Expressionist style that he had learned as a young man. He focused on landscapes, nudes, and portraits. Portrait of a Young Girl is still widely reproduced, and Brandt said that he felt its technique may have inspired the film, Citizen Kane. Brandt admired the work of Edward Weston (American, 1886–1958) and Orson Welles (American, 1915–1985). Taking a cue from their words, he liked to use older cameras that did not mimic human vision capabilities, and he often employed wide-angled lenses, especially when he photographed nudes. These works are collected in Perspective of Nudes (1961).
A sampling of Brandt’s overall best works are showcased in Shadow of Light (1966). The artist was honored with a huge retrospective gallery display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 2004. His Kensington home displays an English Heritage Blue Plaque, a rare achievement for a photographer. Brandt died on December 20, 1983.