Posts Tagged ‘British photographer

21
Aug
22

Exhibition: ‘Brick Lane 1978: The Turning Point’ at Four Corners, London

Exhibition dates: 10th June – 10th September 2022

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Adler Street, London E1, 14 May 1978. The start of the march behind Altab Ali's coffin from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attack' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Adler Street, London E1, 14 May 1978. The start of the march behind Altab Ali’s coffin from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attack (ACARA)
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

1977-1978 were tumultuous years in Britain. In 1977 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Silver Jubilee but the disaffection and alienation of large sections of society were evidenced in the numerous riots, strikes and protests that spread across the country. There were many “youth cultural movements in the late 1970s in the UK – namely skinheads, punks, and soulboys – along with the social, political, and cultural tensions between them.” Racism and homophobia were rife in both West Indian and white British communities.

Punk ruled the airwaves and the streets, the “Yorkshire Ripper” was running amok and undertakers went on strike in London, leaving more than 800 corpses unburied. “On 7 June, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and the record label Virgin arranged to charter a private boat and have the Sex Pistols perform while sailing down the River Thames, passing Westminster Pier and the Houses of Parliament. The event, a mockery of the Queen’s river procession planned for two days later, ended in chaos. Police launches forced the boat to dock, and constabulary surrounded the gangplanks at the pier. While the band members and their equipment were hustled down a side stairwell, McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and many of the band’s entourage were arrested.”1

On the 13th August 1977, the Battle of Lewisham took place took place, “when 500 members of the far-right National Front (NF) attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham in southeast London and various counter-demonstrations by approximately 4,000 people led to violent clashes between the two groups and between the anti-NF demonstrators and police.”1 On the 30th January 1978, then opposition leader Margaret Thatcher says that many Britons fear being “swamped by people with a different culture”.

And on the 4th May 24-year-old Bengali leather garments worker Altab Ali is murdered in East London in a racially motivated attack which mobilises the British Bangladeshi community to protest. These photographs pay tribute to the activists who mobilised around the rallying cry of justice that followed.

Socio-documentary photographers like Paul Trevor are vital in recording the roiling emotions and feelings of people during periods of great stress, protest and change. What is striking about his documentary photographs of the local Bengali community’s mobilisation against racist violence and institutional police racism is their power and directness – the grim determination of the people and their anger against what was and had been happening to them for a very long time comes across in the photographs with visceral force, perhaps even their anger against being photographed as well. The looks of defiance aimed at the camera lens is an act of defiance toward racism itself – no more they are saying. Never again!

We can see it in they eyes of the elderly gentleman in shirt and tie (with the protective, open hand across his chest) and the women at right in the photograph Adler Street, London E1, 14 May 1978. The start of the march behind Altab Ali’s coffin from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attack (ACARA) (1978, above); we can observe it in the stare of the man underneath the placard at left in the photograph Hyde Park, London W2, 14 May 1978. Rally following the march behind Altab Ali’s coffin from Whitechapel, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks (ACARA) (1978, below); and we can feel it in the gaze of the man at right in the photograph Leadenhall Street, London, 14 May 1978. Thousands of Bengalis follow the coffin of Altab Ali from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks (ACARA) (1978, below). We can feel the emotion, outrage, and passion in all of these photographs. We are human beings and we don’t deserve to be treated like animals…

Today, arm in arm, we still need to march to protect our freedoms and rights as human beings. And we still need photographs to document our resistance toward right wing ideology, discrimination and racism. Which reminds me – in the recent Commonwealth Games, “In 35 out of the 56 Commonwealth nations homosexuality is considered a crime, with some countries still punishing it with the death penalty… Seven Commonwealth nations have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for being gay.”3 Still this, in the 21st century. It’s barbaric. And none of this hiding behind the cloak of religion and religious dogma … for religion is just a salve to the conscience of the unconscionable.

Brothers, we need to protest against discrimination and racism of any form around the world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Anonymous. “Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 21/08/2022
  2. Anonymous. “Battle of Lewisham,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 21/08/2022
  3. Benjamin Butterworth. “Commonwealth Games 2022: Tom Daley and protesters criticise anti-gay laws in 35 Commonwealth countries,” on the iNews website, July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 21/08/2022

.
Many thankx to Four Corners for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

.
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

“Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.”

.
Kofi Annan

 

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”

.
Angela Davis

 

“Freedom is never given; it is won.”

.
A. Philip Randolph

 

 

On display at Four Corners: an exhibition of photographs by Paul Trevor, celebrating east London’s Bengali activists of 1978.

This exhibition reveals the dramatic events which were sparked by the racist murder of Altab Ali, a 24-year-old Bengali leather garments worker, and pays tribute to the activists who mobilised around the rallying cry of justice that followed.

Local East End photographer Paul Trevor documented how members of the local Bengali community endured racial abuse as a constant factor of everyday life, and the moment at which they mobilised against racist violence and institutional police racism. The exhibition brings together 75 of Trevor’s photographs for the first time, alongside oral history recordings by original activists.

The show marks the culmination of a major heritage project led by Four Corners and Swadhinata Trust, in partnership with Paul Trevor. With the help of volunteers and original activists, the project is creating a record of this watershed moment as told by local people. The exhibition, alongside project oral history interviews, short films and podcasts, will be available as a touring show, and will be lodged at the Bishopsgate Institute Archives.

Text from the Four Corners website

 

Altab Ali Day is held each year on 4 May. It commemorates the racist murder of a young Bengali man in 1978 and the transformative events that followed. East London’s Bengali community mobilised with mass demonstrations, meetings and sit-down protests. Their actions were a turning point in resistance against racism and discrimination in Britain.

Photographer Paul Trevor captured the dramatic events of that year. Guided by these photographs, Four Corners and Swadhinata Trust are working with local volunteers to record the memories of people involved at the time, creating a vital record of this watershed moment.

 

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Hyde Park, London W2, 14 May 1978. Altab Ali's coffin departs for Downing Street' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Hyde Park, London W2, 14 May 1978. Altab Ali’s coffin departs for Downing Street
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

 

“On the week after that murder had taken place, maybe … six or 7,000 people, all different backgrounds, came to the park. And we walked behind his coffin in a black… van… We walked to Downing Street to protest and appeal for help. That was an extraordinary gathering of people from different backgrounds, from the mosque, from the churches, all sorts of people, different politics, Anti-Nazi League then joined us, but it was done at no notice, very just quickly from the heart. And it was yes, an important turning point I think.”

.
Dan Jones

“It was cold and wet and horrible, and a lot of people went home before we left Altab Ali Park as it is now… it was you know predominantly Bangladeshis that went, a lot of the men who’d normally be working but would have Sunday off were on it. It was quite remarkable like that… there was a great sense of solidarity in that.”

.
Claire Murphy

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Hyde Park, London W2, 14 May 1978. Rally following the march behind Altab Ali's coffin from Whitechapel, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Hyde Park, London W2, 14 May 1978. Rally following the march behind Altab Ali’s coffin from Whitechapel, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks (ACARA)
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Downing Street, London SW1, 14 May 1978. Bengali delegation outside No 10 after delivering Petition' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Downing Street, London SW1, 14 May 1978. Bengali delegation outside No 10 after delivering Petition
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

The hard facts about the resistance movement of the 1970s in East London are that different umbrella organisations at different periods of time were formed to mount the resistance movement in the 1970s in East London. It was never ever a national organisation and certainly not an individual, but the local community groups who mobilised the Bangladeshi community to mount the resistance movement. When the community was under attack by the far-right National Front (NF), we looked to the authority to protect us from the vicious racist attacks. However, the police turned a blind eye to the situation. Various local Bangladeshi organisations and the anti-racist individuals felt the necessity of forming an umbrella organisation to protect the community from racist attacks. The first such umbrella organisation was the ‘Anti Racist Committee of Asians in East London’ (ARCAEL). The ARCAEL organised a mass meeting at the Naaz cinema Hall in the middle of Brick Lane on 12th June 1976 and convinced the Bangladeshi community that we could not rely on the authorities to protect us and we had to fight back and defend ourselves. ARCAEL organised vigilante groups and confronted the NF thugs who would run their stall at the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane every Sunday to sell their filthy propaganda literature and to recruit new members. The police took notice of these confrontations. However, this resulted in increasing numbers of arrests of the Asians. At one point the police told us that whichever group went to the spot first would be allowed to have their presence. We started mobilising ourselves early in the morning and the NF tried to be there before us. We then decided to start gathering at the corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road on Saturday evenings and kept on occupying the spot overnight.

It was the entire community under the leadership of ARCAEL engineered the resistance movement in East London in the 1970s.

After Altab Ali was brutally murdered on 4th May 1978, the Bangladeshi community vowed to stamp out racist attacks once and for all. We took to the street and we shouted slogans, “Enough is Enough” “Come What May, We Are Here to Stay.” “Here to Stay, Here to Fight” “Black and White Unite and Fight”. Immediately, after the death of Altab Ali, another umbrella organisation, “Action Committee Against Racial Attacks” (ACARA), was formed for the specific purpose of organising a national demonstration. In just 10 days preparation, ACARA successfully organised a National Demonstration to highlight the lack of police action to protect the victims of racial attacks in East London. We marched from Brick Lane to Hyde Park for a rally and then went to Downing Street to give a petition to the Prime Minister demanding a full investigation into the police handling of racist attacks in East London and more protection of immigrants. The petition was given by the chair of the ACARA, Mr Taibur Rahman who was accompanied by the General Secretary, Jamal Hasan and five other committee members, namely Shiraz Uddin, Shoeb Chowdhury, Gulam Mustafa, Akikur Rahman and Zia Uddin Lala.

One can see the news coverage with a photograph in front of 10 Downing Street in the East London Advertiser, dated 19th May 1978. This is available in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, 277 Bancroft Rd, London E1 4DQ (near the Queen Mary University). Two days before the national demonstration, ACARA issued a press release which appeared in the East London Advertiser on 12 May 1978, “… In a joint statement, committee members Taibur Rahman, Jamal Hasan and Shiraz Uddin told the Advertiser: ‘This march condemns the death of Altab Ali. It has been called to publicise what is happening to Asians in East London so that everyone can learn of the attacks which make us daily victims…'”

From these two newspaper articles, it is obvious that it was the umbrella organisation ACARA which mobilised the community and organised the national demonstration. There were a few more umbrella organisations since 1978. Hackney and Tower Hamlets Defence Committee was another important umbrella organisation which organised a one day strike by the Asian and black workers in East London and had a sit-in protest in front of the Bethnal Green Police station demanding the release of some of our members who were arrested in the demonstration. The police had to give in to our demand and released the three of our members arrested earlier.

Jamal Hasan. “The big lie,” on the Altab Ali Foundation website May 2019 [Online] Cited 05/08/2022

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Leadenhall Street, London, 14 May 1978. Thousands of Bengalis follow the coffin of Altab Ali from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Leadenhall Street, London, 14 May 1978. Thousands of Bengalis follow the coffin of Altab Ali from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, organised by the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks (ACARA)
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

Exhibition reveals a dramatic struggle for justice in east London A major exhibition of photographs by Paul Trevor documents a dramatic struggle for justice.

Following the racist murder of Altab Ali in May 1978, east London’s young Bengali community took to the streets in protest. Four Corners’ new exhibition, Brick Lane 1978: The Turning Point, brings together seventy of Paul Trevor’s images alongside accounts of pioneering activists, to produce a powerful narrative of the time.

The show marks the culmination of a major heritage project led by Four Corners and Swadhinata Trust with a dedicated group of volunteers, and who have interviewed many people involved in these momentous events. The exhibition pays tribute to a generation whose actions changed the course of civil rights in the UK.

Julie Begum, Chair of Swadhinata Trust, said, “It is important to commemorate Altab Ali Day to remember the racist violence the Bengali community faced in the East End of London, and to celebrate the community’s united defence to defeat the evils of racism.” Paul Trevor said: “They say a photo is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, as in this case, words are essential. This project is an opportunity to add the voices of those who made history to the images of that story.” Carla Mitchell, Artistic Development Director at Four Corners said: “This history is highly relevant today, with an increase of racist attacks and violence making the headlines. Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to ensure that this powerful heritage is made publicly accessible for a wide audience of current & future generations.”

 

Historical background

1978 began with opposition leader Margaret Thatcher on ‘World in Action’ television programme saying that many Britons feared being “rather swamped by people with a different culture.” Her comments were seen as a direct appeal to would-be National Front voters in working class neighbourhoods. Racist violence was endemic in east London, and particularly around Brick Lane recently arrived Bengali migrants worked in the local rag trade, as had the Jews before them.

The National Front’s newspaper pitch at Brick Lane’s Sunday morning market attracted skinheads who harassed the local Bengali community. They were a target for far-right groups, who wrongly blamed them for high unemployment and bad housing. East London has always been a haven for migrants, from the French Huguenots fleeing 17th century religious persecution, to the Irish poor of the 19th century, and Jews escaping Cossack pogroms in Russia and Poland. It also has an equally long history of racist violence and resistance to it. Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists tried to march east to the docks in 1936, but were stopped by Jews, Irish dockers and communists in the famous ‘Battle of Cable Street’.

Altab Ali’s murder on the night of the May 1978 local elections in which 41 National Front candidates stood, marked a turning point for the Bengali community. 7,000 people marched behind his coffin to a rally in Hyde Park, then to Downing Street where they handed in a petition demanding police protection. That year young Bengali people mobilised in a community-led, anti-racist struggle which brought about a radical social transformation both locally and far beyond.

Anti-racist protests against the electoral threat of the far right National Front party were supported by a grass-roots, multi-cultural movement – Rock against Racism – which held open-air concerts in nearby Victoria Park, headlined by The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson. Community protest and music radicalised a generation, and helped destroy National Front support.

Local photographer Paul Trevor documented the dramatic events of the era in over 400 photographs, many of which will be on show for the first time in this exhibition. His photographs show how the local Bengali community endured racial abuse as a constant factor of everyday life, and how they united to end violence and institutional racism. Trevor was also a member of the Half Moon Photography Workshop collective, whose work focused on socially-committed photography. Some of his images were covered in their Camerawork magazine: Exhibition Poster for Brick Lane 1978 A Community Under Attack; Review of the exhibition Brick Lane 1978. A community under attack.

By the end of 1978, the National Front was forced to leave its headquarters near Brick Lane, though far-right racist attacks in east London persisted into the 1990s. To this day the name Altab Ali remains linked with the struggle against racism and for human rights in London’s East End.

Press release from Four Corners, London

 

Paul Trevor

Trevor was born in London (b. 1947) and grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. He studied at the National Film & Television School, and was a founder member of Camerawork, the UK’s first radical photo magazine. In 1973, together with the photographers Chris Steele-Perkins and Nicholas Battye, he formed the Exit Photography Group. Their largest project, Survival Programmes documented life in the inner cities, both in photographs and recorded interviews over a period of six years. Works from the project were shown at the Side Gallery, Newcastle in 1982 and brought together in a book; the photographs here are drawn from this project. The works were as much about documenting the squalor of the inner cities, as they were about recording the process of poverty – inadequate housing, unemployment, overcrowding, illness and old age. The Exit archive is now housed and administered by the LSE.

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'New Road, London E1, June 1976. Demonstration organised by ARCAEL' 1976

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
New Road, London E1, June 1976. Demonstration organised by ARCAEL (Anti Racist Committee of Asians in East London)
Left: Chomok Ali Noor. Centre: Mala Sen
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

 

“… the Bangladeshi workers who used to work in sweatshops by and large in the East End, experienced a lot of what they called Paki bashing… People would just for fun… they would beat isolated people walking on the streets.”

“And there was of course, the death of Altab Ali which caused the huge huge meeting, which of course we went to the community centre and we said we ought to call a protest and get the government to see that this stops because the police are not paying any attention… So from the Altab Ali meeting from the meeting of Anti-Racist Committee of Asians in East London, we called it ARCAEL… huge meeting in a cinema in Brick Lane. And when we called the meeting, we thought we’d get you know fifty people – thousands of people turned up, the cinema was full, and the entire Brick Lane was packed with people listening through loudspeakers outside… and the emotion poured out, the determination to do something poured out.”

.
Farrukh Dhondy

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Whitechapel Road, London E1, June 1976. Demonstration organised by ARCAEL' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Whitechapel Road, London E1, June 1976. Demonstration organised by ARCAEL (Anti Racist Committee of Asians in East London)
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

The banner at left refers to Enoch Powell (British, 1912-1998), “politician, classical scholar, author, linguist, soldier, philologist, and poet. He served as a Conservative Member of Parliament (1950-1974) and was Minister of Health (1960-1963) then Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP (1974-1987)…

Powell attracted widespread attention for his “Rivers of Blood” speech, delivered on 20 April 1968 to the General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre. In it, Powell criticised the rates of immigration into the UK, especially from the New Commonwealth, and opposed the anti-discrimination legislation Race Relations Bill. The speech drew sharp criticism from Powell’s own party members and the press, and Conservative Party leader Edward Heath removed Powell from his position as Shadow Defence Secretary…

Polls in the 1960s and 1970s showed that Powell’s views were popular among the British population at the time.[35] A Gallup poll, for example, showed that 75% of the population were sympathetic to Powell’s views. An NOP poll showed that approximately 75% of the British population agreed with Powell’s demand for non-white immigration to be halted completely, and about 60% agreed with his call for the repatriation of non-whites already resident in Britain.

The Rivers of Blood speech has been blamed for leading to violent attacks against British Pakistanis and other British Asians, which became frequent after the speech in 1968; however, there is “little agreement on the extent to which Powell was responsible for racial attacks”. These “Paki-bashing” attacks later peaked during the 1970s and 1980s.

Powell was mentioned in early versions of the 1969 song “Get Back” by the Beatles. This early version of the song, known as the “No Pakistanis” version, parodied the anti-immigrant views of Enoch Powell.

On 5 August 1976, Eric Clapton provoked an uproar and lingering controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, Clapton voiced his support of the controversial speech, and announced on stage that Britain was in danger of becoming a “black colony”. Among other things, Clapton said “Keep Britain white!” which was at the time a National Front (NF) slogan.

In November 2010, the actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar recalled the fear which the speech instilled in Britons of Indian origin: “At the end of the 1960s, Enoch Powell was quite a frightening figure to us. He was the one person who represented an enforced ticket out, so we always had suitcases that were ready and packed. My parents held the notion that we may have to leave.”

Whilst a section of the white population appeared to warm to Powell over the speech, the author Mike Phillips recalls that it legitimised hostility, and even violence, towards black Britons like himself.

In his book The British Dream (2013), David Goodhart claims that Powell’s speech in effect “put back by more than a generation a robust debate about the successes and failures of immigration”.

“Just when a discussion should have been starting about integration, racial justice, and distinguishing the reasonable from the racist complaints of the white people whose communities were being transformed, he polarised the argument and closed it down.”

.
Text from the “Enoch Powell” and “Rivers of Blood speech,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Outside police station, Bethnal Green Road, London E2, 17 July 1978. Sit down protest' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Outside police station, Bethnal Green Road, London E2, 17 July 1978. Sit down protest
Bengali Youth Movement Against Racism sit-down protest outside Bethnal Green Police Station, 17 July 1978

1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

 

“I thought Britain would love us. But in fact it was the opposite, they hated us. So the reason I never had my childhood teenage I was frightened. I was living in fear. We never had a place to go to apart from Brick Lane.”

“… people got beaten up in streets, people used to get mugged… after work coming home by racists. Then we came into the realisation that we… have to fight back. Then all some of the young teenager we named we set up an organisation called Bangladesh Youth Front.”

“… 1978, I was 18 or 19 at the time… Then I came to know the name of Altab Ali… We organised a demonstration to march from Whitechapel St Mary’s Churchyard to Hyde Park Corner… And that was the day gave us the strength after seeing all these people supported us. All these people was chanting. ‘Here to stay. We are here, here to stay’… and there was… slogans saying ‘black and white, unite and fight. We are black, we are white, we are united.'”

.
Rafique Ullah

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Brick Lane, London E1, 17 July 1978. Bangladesh Youth Movement Against racism march' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Brick Lane, London E1, 17 July 1978. Bangladesh Youth Movement Against racism march
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Curtain Road, London EC2, 20 August 1978. Hackney & Tower Hamlets Defence Committee & ANL march' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Curtain Road, London EC2, 20 August 1978. Hackney & Tower Hamlets Defence Committee & ANL (Anti Nazi League) march
Left to right: Syed Mizan, Jamal Miah, Abdul Manik
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

 

“We wanted to defend our community. We wanted to show the world that Altab Ali was a very simple and innocent garments worker who was murdered by racists for no reason. He was simply working in rag trade, and on his way from work to home he was murdered.”

“We marched from Brick Lane to Hyde Park corner, we marched to House of Commons, we marched to major roads in London protesting the murder of Altab Ali.”

“… there were a huge number of people that needs to be recognised by the community, by the next generation, by the future generations, by the history that you are involved. I think these people need some recognition.”

.
Syed Mizan

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947) 'Brick Lane, London E1, September 1978' 1978

 

Paul Trevor (British, b. 1947)
Brick Lane, London E1, September 1978
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Trevor

 

 

Four Corners
121 Roman Road
Bethnal Green
London E2 0QN
Phone: 020 8981 6111

Gallery hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 6pm
(8pm on Thursdays)

Four Corners website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

14
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘John Coplans: La Vie Des Formes’ at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2021 – 16th January 2021

Curators: Jean-François Chevrier and Élia Pijollet

 

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self Portrait (Two Hands Together)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait (Two Hands Together)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
101.5 x 110.8cm (39.89 x 43.54 ins)
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

A magnificent posting on the work of John Coplans whose art practice resulted in a photo essay, an extended, creative “body” of work (pardon the pun) which investigated the form, mass, volume and shape of the ageing human body – namely his own (as an auteur) – resulting in the most significant representation of the older human body in the history of photography.

Referencing the abstractions of Aaron Siskind’s Martha’s Vineyard rock formations and Bill Brandt’s nudes on the coast of East Sussex, Coplans abstracts the human body into singular and overlapping forms using shape, multiple self-portrait, multiple prints as frieze and mismatched dissections. As seen in the installation photographs in the video below, Coplans also pulls and pushes at the viewers perception of the scale of representation, the orientation of the body and the physicality of the photograph in the gallery space: a fragmented hand is larger and more imposing than a dissected foot; the body “lies” vertically upside down in Upside down No. 1 (1992, below); and the mass of the back overwhelms the viewer in Back with Arms Above (1984, below). Coplans depictions of large buttocks and back confront the viewer at eye level, much as Carravagio’s use of foreshortening in his paintings disturbed the status quo of the pictorial space in a church especially when seen by candlelight.

The artist frees the body from aesthetics – and the body becomes an/other structure, free of architecture.

This is not a degraded body but another body that just is… not the physicality of the body and certainly not my body as a temple, but an anti-commercial body, one that states that this is what we inevitably will become, despite our attempts to keep our beauty and attain immortality. This is about a recognition of the body as being undeniably present accepting an entire range of corpo/reality. While movement and action are suppressed (in stillness), change is the problem that Coplans has attempted to re/present – that is, “an attempt to capture a moment of transformation. In this case, it is both a physical change and a psychological set of responses…”1 Old age and mortality, age and youth, beauty.

I can also feel – sense, that Coplans work of the body is a tone poem, a piece of music (typically of one movement) on a descriptive theme. Tone is “often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem [as interpreted by the reader], it is created by the poem’s vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, use of figurative language, and rhyme.”2 Here, Coplans figurative language (his life of forms) creates comparisons by linking the senses and the concrete to abstract ideas: the concreteness of the photograph to how we feel about an ageing body or, indeed, our own ageing body; the time freeze of the photograph to the feeling of lost youth; the immortality of the photograph to the knowledge that the artist is alive and dead – we have his preserved, embalmed, dissected body before us but what about his other, spirit?

We can know the phenomenal (the world of representation) but all we can ever do is intimate the noumenal world, the unknowable noumenon as an entity to which we can directly relate but can never know (we can know of death but never experience it).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Christopher P. Jones. “Great Paintings: Caravaggio’s ‘The Supper at Emmaus’,” on the Thinksheet magazine website Aug 30, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2021
  2. Unknown author. “Tone,” in Glossary of Poetic Terms on the Poetry Foundation website Nd [Online] Cited 14/11/2021

.
Many thankx to the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In early October, the new exhibition on John Coplans will open at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, curated by Jean-François Chevrier and Élia Pijollet. It stands out through its selection and conversations with artists that Coplans admired, such as Brancusi, Weegee, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Philip Guston and Jan Groover.

A formal and fearless photographer, Coplans uses his naked body as the sole material for his sensual, disconcerting, radical and personal compositions. Comprised of original works on loan from numerous French institutions and private lenders, this exhibition breaks new ground for the Fondation HCB, with a rare bird from the history of photography.

 

 

 

Teaser de l’exposition John Coplans – La vie des formes

 

 

Exhibition

Fondation HCB is presenting a remarkable exhibition on the oeuvre of John Coplans (1920-2003), in collaboration with Le Point du Jour, Centre d’Art Éditeur in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. Works on show here, on loan from French collections, testify to the audacity of this British artist, known for uncompromising representations of his body.

Coplans, who emigrated to the United States at the start of the 1960s, was at first painter, art critic, museum director and curator before devoting himself fully to photography in the early 1980s. At sixty years old, after twenty years of promoting the work of other artists, he retired to take up a life in art. He then developed a photography practice in which he represented himself nude, in black and white and often fragmented, his head always out of frame. To all these images, produced between 1984 and 2002, he attributed the generic title Self Portrait; descriptive titles and subtitles specify the body part depicted or the posture.

As a primary, unique and impersonal object, the body is a medium for jubilant, ever-renewed explorations of the life of form. Coplans’ work, often reductively seen as a representation of the ageing body, has lighter, more universal ambitions and inscribes in a long history of art forms through its metaphorical connections to nature or sculpture. His oeuvre redefines the meaning of age, no longer a progression towards the end of life, instead, an opportunity for a long-term record of humankind and an initiative for recollecting primitive forms.

The absence of the face, and the choice of the fragment as plastic element released a flood of inventions and formal analogies that seemed inexhaustible, only stopping with the artist’s passing. Coplans’ images are by turns subdued and explosive, funny, provocative and always carefully considered. They answer to a demand for clarity that transfigures expressionist pathos.

The exhibition La Vie des Formes (Life of Forms) is structured in three sets presented chronologically. First, small prints made at the start of Coplans’ career in photography (Torso, Back, Hands, Feet…); followed by, in 1988, large formats and montage combining several body fragments to create a single but disjointed image; and finally, as a great connoisseur of art history, Coplans integrated research on artists he studied, exhibited and knew into his own work, and a selection of works by these artists (Brancusi, Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Jan Groover, Weegee…) is presented.

 

Biography

John Coplans was born in London in 1920. The son of a doctor in medicine and art amateur, he spent most of his childhood between London and South Africa. In 1937, aware of the global danger posed by Nazi Germany, he joined the British army. He fought until 1945 in East Africa, then in India and Burma.

In 1946, John Coplans started an art degree but quickly gave up. He moved to London. For ten years or so, he has painted and contributed to the rise of abstract art, in the wake of lyrical abstraction, then Hard Edge. In 1960, Coplans emigrated to the United States and moved to San Francisco. In 1962, he participated in the creation of Artforum. The magazine quickly established itself as a monthly reference for art and creative news. The first of its kind on the West Coast, it supported and united artists, helping to bring out the “Los Angeles scene” and “West Coast art”. Coplans was its editor from 1971 to 1977 (in New York, where the magazine moved in 1967).

John Coplans was also a curator, director of the Art Gallery of the University of California at Irvine (1965-1967) and Senior Curator of the Pasadena Art Museum in (1967-1970). From 1978 to 1980, he directed the Akron Art Museum, Ohio. At this time, he began his first photographic experiments.

In 1980, he decided to cease these activities to become an artist again and to devote himself to photography. He moved to New York. From 1985 onwards, he exhibited regularly in France and Europe. In 1988, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) set up the first major exhibition of the photographer, which was then presented at the MoMA in New York the same year. John Coplans died in New York on August 21, 2003.

 

Publication

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book published by Le Point du Jour: John Coplans. Un corps, under the guidance of Jean-François Chevrier.

Press release from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait: Three Times' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait: Three Times
1987
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self Portrait: Six Times' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait: Six Times
1987
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

Emigrating to the United States in the early 1960s, John Coplans was first a painter, art critic, museum director and curator, before devoting himself fully to photography in the early 1980s. At the age of sixty, after having spent twenty years promoting the work of other artists, he retires to reconnect with the experience of creation. He then developed a photographic practice in which he represented his naked body, in black and white, often fragmented, his head always out of view. He used for all these images made between 1984 and 2002 the generic title Self Portrait; descriptive titles and sub-titles specify the body part or posture depicted.

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Knees with Fist' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Knees with Fist
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Foot, Four Panels' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Foot, Four Panels
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Double Feet, Five Panels' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Double Feet, Five Panels
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, East Sussex coast' 1959

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, East Sussex coast
1959
Gelatin silver print

Used under fair use conditions for the purpose of education

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hand, Two Panels, Vertical' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hand, Two Panels, Vertical
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Back of Hand, No. 1)' 1986

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Back of Hand, No. 1)
1986
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Front Hand, No. 3)' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Front Hand, No. 3)
1987
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Front Hand No. 6, Middle Fingers down)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Front Hand No. 6, Middle Fingers down)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Clenched thumb No. 2' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Clenched thumb No. 2
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Clenched Thumb Sideways)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Clenched Thumb Sideways)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Back with Arms Above' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Back with Arms Above
1984
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Body Parts, No. 8' 2001

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Body Parts, No. 8
2001
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Back Torso From Below' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Back Torso From Below
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Torso' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Torso
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hands Holding Feet' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hands Holding Feet
1985
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hands spread on knees' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hands spread on knees
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait: Hands Squeezing Knees' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait: Hands Squeezing Knees
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Reclining Back, Three Panels, Left' 1990

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Reclining Back, Three Panels, Left
1990
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Upside down No. 1' 1992

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Upside down No. 1
1992
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Untitled (Martha's Vineyard)' 1954

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Untitled (Martha’s Vineyard)
1954
Gelatin silver print
33.9 × 26.5cm (image); 35.2 × 28cm (paper)
Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Richard L. Menschel
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

Used under fair use conditions for the purpose of education

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Torso Front' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Torso Front
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Lying Figure, Holding Leg, Four Panels' 1990

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Lying Figure, Holding Leg, Four Panels
1990
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Feet, Frontal' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Feet, Frontal
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

22
Aug
21

Exhibition: ‘Bill Brandt’ at the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 29th August 2021

Curator: Ramón Esparza (University of the Basque Country)

 

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'St. Paul's Cathedral in the moonlight' 1942

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
St. Paul’s Cathedral in the moonlight
1942
25.72 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Bill Brandt: master of photography, master of reinvention

“I’m 70% sure this was a reality not a dream”

In 12 years of writing this archive, this is the first chance I have had to assemble a posting and really think about the work of Bill Brandt, one of the most significant and inventive photographer of the 20th century. Brandt exhibitions are few and far between.

Son of a British father and German mother, Bill Brandt was born in Hamburg in 1904. As an adolescent he contracted tuberculosis and spent much of his youth in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. In 1927 he travelled to Vienna, “to see a lung specialist and then decided to stay and find work in a photography studio. There, in 1928, he met and made a successful portrait of the poet Ezra Pound, who subsequently introduced Brandt to the American-born, Paris-based photographer Man Ray. Brandt arrived in Paris to begin three months of study as an apprentice at the Man Ray Studio in 1929 … his work from this time shows the influence of André Kertész and Eugène Atget, as well as Man Ray and the Surrealists.”1

“For any young photographer at that time, Paris was the centre of the world. Those were the exciting early days when the French poets and surrealists recognised the possibilities of photography.” ~ Bill Brandt

.
Having visited London in 1928, upon his return to London, in 1931, Brandt was well versed in the language of photographic modernism. In 1933 Brandt settled permanently in North London with his wife. With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Brandt Anglicised his name and disowned his German background and would claim he was born in South London. “He adopted Britain as his home and it became the subject of his greatest photographs.” Here is his first reinvention: the obfuscation of his German heritage, but he could not hide that heritage in his photographs.

As a photojournalist working for magazines such as News Chronicle, Weekly Illustrated, Lilliput, Harper’s Bazaar and Picture Post, Brandt documented all levels of British society. In his first book, The English at Home (1936), “comprising sixty-three photographs, Brandt traversed the country to make a pictorial survey of sorts, moving across the social classes, and between rural life and the urban city.”2 In the book Brandt pairs upper and lower class photographs across double page spreads, mixing joy (girl dancing in the street) with sobriety (the parlourmaids). As David Campany observes in his excellent writing on the artist, “There is nothing overtly angry or revolutionary in the generally restrained tone of Brandt’s book. However it was unusual in bringing different classes into one volume, leaving the viewer to reconcile the social contradictions and inequities.”3

“The extreme social contrast, during those years before the war, was, visually, very inspiring for me. I started by photographing in London, the West End, the suburbs, the slums.” ~ Bill Brandt

.
The book was not a success. Much like Robert Frank’s The Americans (published in France in 1958), another book by an émigré photographing as an outsider a foreign country, the British did not understand the book and probably did not like the mirror that was being held up to their society – much as the Americans hated Frank’s book for the pointed insights its probing images revealed of their fractured society, which had never been shown to them before. Campany notes, “In the 1930s Brandt was drawn to the rituals and customs of daily life, with what he saw as the deeply unconscious ways people inhabit their social roles and class positions. For him, to photograph these minutiae was not simply to document but to estrange through a heightened sense of atmosphere, theatrical artifice and a dreamlike sensibility. As an outsider he seemed to see English behaviour as bordering on passive automatism.”4

In the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the photographs would have made the English feel very uncomfortable. Through their social commentary and poetic resonance, through their direct, modernist gaze and Surrealist dances (the women washing the blackened coal miner, a man sheltering in a coffin), Brandt squeezes (conflates?) documentary and art together, seeing the familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Through reinvention he recasts the very nature of his characters, finding out what else is essential in the photographs, challenging the viewer to understand the complexities of the image as it moves across time and from documentary to art. Often this left the viewer perplexed and grasping at the mystery, the unknown.

Other bodies of work and books followed. In 1937, Brandt visited the North of England for the first time, photographing the desperate plight of the poor scavenging for coal on the slag-heaps. In 1938 Brandt published A Night in London which was based on Paris de Nuit (1936) by Brassaï, photographing pubs, common lodging houses at night, theatres, Turkish baths, prisons and people in their bedrooms. By 1939, he was back in London, photographing the blackout and people sheltering from the Blitz in the London Underground.

“In 1939, at the beginning of the war, I was back in London photographing the blackout. The darkened town, lit only by moonlight, looked more beautiful than before or since.” ~ Bill Brandt

.
And so it went, on through Literary Britain (1951) which combined brooding, atmospheric landscapes and photographs of William Wordsworth’s room at Dove Cottage, Shaw’s Corner, Glamis Castle from Macbeth, and the scene of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment at Reading Gaol opposite British poetry and prose; from the 1940s onwards, portraits of the notable and creative, made during the 1960s using a wide-angle lens; and perspectives on nudes made from 1944 onwards using a 1931 Kodak mahogany and brass camera with a wide-angle lens used by the police for crime scene records, which allowed him to see, he said, ‘like a mouse, a fish or a fly’.

“The nudes reveal Brandt’s intimate knowledge of the École de Paris – particularly Man Ray, Picasso, Matisse and Arp – together with his admiration for Henry Moore. He published Perspective of Nudes in 1961. It featured nudes in domestic interiors and studios, and on the beaches of East Sussex and northern and southern France. He used a Superwide Hasselblad for the beach photographs. In 1977-1978 Brandt added further nudes, published in Nudes, 1945-1980.”5

Through all of this there is the reinvention… reinvention of the portrait where the sitter is now part of the whole scenario (the surroundings), reinvention of the landscape where the landscape emerges from chthonic darkness, and reinvention of the nude where Brandt transplants Brassai’s Distortions into domestic interiors and exterior beaches – where the Surrealist, distorted, enigmatic fragment, like an ear or a big toe, comes to stand for the whole embedded in an alien landscape. Finally, there was the big reinvention in the 1960s, where Brandt began to reprint his earlier photojournalist images with a much harsher contrast (see various comparison images in this posting) in order to enhance their (Surrealist) art credentials and keep them relevant in an Abstract Expressionist, Pop Art world.

As David Campany states, “In the 1960s there were two major changes in his work and its reception. Both were related to his emerging position in art photography. He began to print his negatives much more harshly, sacrificing the mid-tones for more modish graphic blocks of black and white. The rich descriptive information in his negatives would be subsumed, even obliterated in his new aesthetic… While his latest photography was pursued more openly as art, notably his nudes (published as a book in 1960), his expressionism was released anew upon his earlier work. His books from the 1960s are printed with graphic extremes of black and white.”6

These are the images that are now famous, these graphic reinventions of the work and the Self. The reinvention of the old into the new. Through rethinking, recalculating and reimagining his old photographs and how they looked (“the way in which the artist interpreted a single negative had changed over time”), Brandt opened up his way of seeing and opened up new matter… ‘in rerum natura‘: in the nature of things; in the realm of actuality; in existence. Perhaps never before in the history of photography had the negative just been a step in the production of an ever changing image.

It was in the totality of this new work that his eloquent eye emerged. To me Brandt is like a Zen master. Whether it be socio-documentary, portrait, landscape or nude, it was his ability to focus on a particular subject at any one time – to concentrate on seeing subjects and ideas clearly – that became a hallmark of his later artistic creation. Through bodies of work that mix reality and dream the artist challenges straight photographic seeing in order for us to understand that enigmatic fragments can stand alone from each other while at the same time combining to make the whole. While A snicket in Halifax (1937, below) may not be present in Unemployed miner returning home from Jarrow (1937, below), it is when they combine that the circle is closed. It is in the entirety of his imaged (imagined) world, in the entirety of his vision, when all fragments combine, that Brandt emphasises that the whole of anything is greater than its parts.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “Bill Brandt.” Introduction by Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, 2014 on the MoMA website Nd [Online] Cited 22/08/2021
  2. David Campany. “The Career of a Photographer, the Career of a Photograph – Bill Brandt’s Art of the Document,” on the David Company website [Online] Cited 10/06/2021. First published in the Tate Liverpool exhibition catalogue ‘Making History: Art and documentary in Britain from 1929-Now’, 2006
  3. Ibid.,
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Anonymous. “Bill Brandt Biography,” archived from the original on the V&A website Nd [Online] Cited 22/08/2021
  6. Campany, op cit.,

.
Many thankx to Fundación Mapfre for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Fundación MAPFRE is presenting the first retrospective in Spain on Bill Brandt (1904-1983), considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. The exhibition brings together 186 photographs developed by Brandt himself who, over the course of five decades, made use of almost all the photographic genres: social documentary, portraiture, the nude and landscape.

 

 

“Each of Brandt’s well-known images aims for a tight formal organisation, its content given dramatic charge and dense psychological resonance. As documents they aim unapologetically to exceed visual description. In this sense what served him ill as a photojournalist was just what predisposed his images toward posterity via art. …

In the 1950s he continued to work professionally but concentrated on the more established genres of portraiture and landscape. In the 1960s there were two major changes in his work and its reception. Both were related to his emerging position in art photography. He began to print his negatives much more harshly, sacrificing the mid-tones for more modish graphic blocks of black and white. The rich descriptive information in his negatives would be subsumed, even obliterated in his new aesthetic. It was a technique that looked backward through German expressionist cinema to art photography’s Pictorialist preference for deep shadows and chiaroscuro, but it also connected with the emerging Pop sensibility.

While his latest photography was pursued more openly as art, notably his nudes (published as a book in 1960), his expressionism was released anew upon his earlier work. His books from the 1960s are printed with graphic extremes of black and white. …

The reprinting of Parlourmaid and under-parlourmaid ready to serve dinner was never too harsh. Brandt knew well that the force of this photograph resided in its details as much as its bold graphic organisation. Shadow of Light even improved on its past reproductions allowing new layers of meaning to emerge. …

While some meanings of Brandt’s photograph have been buried as the image has moved across time and from documentary to art, new meanings have come to the surface, meanings entirely dependent on art’s demand for superior qualities of reproduction.

As with many photographers who were discovered by a wider audience later in life, Brandt found himself regarded as a ‘figure from the past’ and as a contemporary artist at the same time. Layered on top of this was what looked like a shift from documentarist to artist. The reality, as always, was more complicated. At his best Brandt was a ‘documentary artist’ with all the paradoxes and interpretative difficulties that entails. There could never be any simple distinction between his artistry and his documentary description. The two are inextricable and give us no clear answers. And in the end these tensions are at the heart of his work and its success.”

.
David Campany. Extract from “The Career of a Photographer, the Career of a Photograph – Bill Brandt’s Art of the Document,” on the David Company website [Online] Cited 10/06/2021. First published in the Tate Liverpool exhibition catalogue ‘Making History: Art and documentary in Britain from 1929-Now’, 2006

 

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Death and the industrialist, Barcelona' 1932

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Death and the industrialist, Barcelona
1932
25.40 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

An apprentice in the studio of Man Ray and influenced in his origins by artists such as Brassaï, André Kertész or Eugène Atget, Bill Brandt (Hamburg, 1904 – London, 1983), one of the founders of modern photography, conceives the photographic language as a powerful means of contemplation and understanding of reality, but always from a primacy of aesthetic considerations over documentaries. Published in the press or in books, some of his photographs quickly became iconic pieces, indispensable to understanding mid-century English society.

His work also expresses a permanent attraction for the strange , for that which causes as much attraction as it is strange and causes unease. His aesthetics are thus close to the concept of “the sinister”, understood as something opposite to the idea of ​​the familiar, of the usual. This element will act as a plot line for a professional and artistic production that, at first, seems erratic and dispersed.

His late work shows a more experimental facet, a search for innovation through cropping and framing, present above all in nude images.

The exhibition brings together 186 photographs made by Bill Brandt himself, who throughout the almost five decades of his career did not stop addressing any of the great genres of the photographic discipline: social reporting, portraiture, nude and landscape .

The tour, divided into six sections (“First photographs”, “Up and down”, “Portraits”, “Described landscapes”, “Nudes” and “In Praise of imperfection”), tries to show how all these aspects – in the that identity and the concept of “the sinister” become protagonists – they come together in the work of this eclectic artist who was considered, above all, a flâneur, a “stroller” in terms similar to those of his admired Eugene Atget, whom he always considered one of his teachers. One hundred and eighty-six photographs that are complemented by writings, some of his cameras and various documentation (among which the interview he gave to the BBC shortly before his death stands out), as well as illustrated publications of the time. All thanks to the courtesy of the Bill Brandt Archive in London and the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York.

 

Four keys

Surrealist beginnings

After starting his foray into photography in Vienna, where he made the famous portrait of the poet Ezra Pound in 1928, Bill Brandt went to Paris to enter as an assistant, for a short period of time, in the studio of Man Ray, which prompted him to blend in with the surrealist atmosphere of the French capital, which will permeate all of his work from then on. This influence, together with that of his admiration for Eugène Atget, the photographer who documented “old Paris” and for whom Fundación MAPFRE also organised an exhibition in 2011, led to images where the disturbing was already making an appearance: street scenes and Parisian nights are some of the most frequent motifs in the artist’s images during this period.

 

Concealment of German heritage

Together with his partner and future wife, Eva Boros, he also made numerous trips to the Hungarian steppe, to his native Hamburg and to Spain, where they visited Madrid and Barcelona, ​​before moving to London in 1934. It was in this city when Brandt got rid of his German roots, eliminating all reference to them, a concealment due to the growing animosity towards Germany that followed the rise of Nazism. Brandt invented a British birth, creating an artistic corpus in which the United Kingdom that is at the core of his identity.

 

The portrait

After having made several portraits in the early days of his career, starting in the 1940s – a period in which he worked for magazines such as Picture Post, Liliput and Harper’s Bazaar – Bill Brandt approached this genre in a professional way. Some of the portraits represented a break with tradition, such as those that appeared in the aforementioned Lilliput in 1941, illustrating the article “Young Poets of Democracy”, which included some of the most representative faces of the writers and poets of the Auden Generation.

 

In Praise of Imperfection

In his introduction to Camera in London, the book on the British capital published in 1948, Bill Brandt noted: ‘I consider it essential that the photographer make his own copies and enlargements. The final effect of the image depends to a large extent on these operations, and only the photographer knows what he intends. For the artist, work in the laboratory was essential and, at the beginning of his career, he learned a whole range of artisan techniques: from magnification to enlargement, the use of brushes, scrapers or other tools.’ This manual retouching sometimes gave his photographs that somewhat crude aspect that can be associated with the aforementioned Freudian concept of the “unheimlich”: the sinister.

Text from the Fundación Mapfre website translated from the Spanish by Google Translate

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Bond Street hatter's show-case' 1934

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Bond Street hatter’s show-case
1934
30.48 x 23.50cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt in Hamburg in 1904 to a wealthy family of Russian origin, after a period living in Vienna and Paris Brandt decided to settle in London in 1934. Within the context of growing hostility to all things German due to the rise of Nazism, he attempted to erase all traces of his origins to the point of stating that he was British by nationality. This concealment and the creation of a new personality enveloped Brandt’s life in an aura of mystery and conflict that is directly reflected in his works.

This aspect combines with the photographer’s interest in psychoanalysis, which he underwent during his youth in Vienna. A few years earlier, in 1919, Sigmund Freud had published the essay Das Unheimliche in which he analysed this term, which is generally translated as “the uncanny” in the sense of something that produces unease. Almost all Brandt’s photographs, both the pre-war social documentary type and those from his subsequent more “artistic” phase, possess a powerful poetic charge as well as that very typical aura of strangeness and mystery in which, as in his own life, reality and fiction are always mixed.

The structure of the exhibition, which is divided into six sections, reveals how all these qualities – in which identity and the concept of “the uncanny” become the principal ones – blend together in the work of this eclectic artist. Above all Brandt was considered a flâneur or stroller in a way comparable to his admired Eugène Atget, whom he always considered one of his masters. The exhibition also reveals the relationship between Brandt’s images and Dada and Surrealism. This interest is reflected in clear references to psychoanalytical issues, expressed through increasingly sombre tones and an obsession with collecting found objects.

The exhibition is completed with a range of documentation, a number of Brandt’s cameras and examples of the illustrated press of the period that published some of his most iconic images. All this has been made possible courtesy of the Bill Brandt Archive in London and the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York.

Press release from the Fundación Mapfre website

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'East Durham coal-searchers' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
East Durham coal-searchers
1937
25.24 x 20.16cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

East Durham coal-searchers near Henworth, 1937. Coal searchers on slag heap searching for bits of coal 1940s.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Coal-Miner's Bath, Chester-le-Street, Durham' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Coal-Miner’s Bath, Chester-le-Street, Durham
1937
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Bill Brandt

Considered one of the most influential British photographers of the 20th century and one of the artists who, together with Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others, laid the foundations of modern photography, Bill Brandt’s oeuvre can be considered an eclectic one, reflecting a career of nearly five decades during which he encompassed almost all the photographic genres: social documentary, portraiture, the nude and landscape.

Born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt in Hamburg in 1904 to a wealthy family of Russian origin, after a period living in Vienna and Paris Brandt decided to settle in London in 1934. Within the context of growing hostility to all things German due to the rise of Nazism, he attempted to erase all traces of his origins to the point of stating that he was British by nationality. This concealment and the creation of a new personality enveloped Brandt’s life in an aura of mystery and conflict that was directly reflected in his work. His images aim to construct a vision of the country that he embraced as his own, although not of the real country but rather of the idea that he had created of it during his childhood through reading and from stories told by relatives.

Brandt had tuberculosis as a child and it was seemingly in the Swiss sanatoriums at Agra and Davos where his family sent him to convalesce that he first became interested in photography. After some years in Switzerland he moved to Vienna to undergo an innovative treatment for tuberculosis based on psychoanalysis. Imbued with a post-Romantic air, Brandt’s photography always seems to be located on the edge, provoking simultaneous attraction and rejection. It can be related to the concept of unheimlich, a term first used by Sigmund Freud in 1919. The adjective unheimlich – generally translated as “the uncanny”, “the sinister” or “the disturbing”, and which according to Eugenio Trías “constitutes the condition and limit of the beautiful” – is one of the characteristic traits that remains present throughout Brandt’s career. Psychoanalytical theories were among the fundamental pillars of Surrealism and their influence extended to the entire Parisian cultural scene in the 1930s. Brandt and his first partner, Eva Boros, moved to the French capital in 1930 where he worked as an assistant in Man Ray’s studio. It was at this point that he assimilated the ideas circulating in a city filled with young artists, many of them immigrants looking to make their way in the professional art world. His images of this initial period suggest a catalogue of psychoanalytical “themes”, clearly reflecting the influence of Surrealism on him even though he never actively participated in any of the historic avant-garde groups.

Almost all Brandt’s images, both the pre-war social documentary type and those from his subsequent more “artistic” phase, possess a powerful poetic charge as well as that very typical aura of strangeness and mystery in which, as in his own life, reality and fiction are always combined.

Bill Brandt died in London in 1983.

Ramón Esparza, curator

 

Early photographs

Following his apprenticeship as a photographer in Vienna, Brandt left for Paris in order to work for a brief period as an assistant in Man Ray’s studio, an activity that allowed him to move in the city’s Surrealist circles. Nonetheless, his photographs of this period are closer to those of his admired Eugène Atget. Brandt followed Atget, becoming a stroller or flâneur whose images of Parisian nightlife and street scenes anticipate his subsequent work and possess an already palpable sense of unease.

Brandt and his partner Eva Boros travelled on numerous occasions to the Hungarian steppes, to his native Hamburg and to Spain, where they visited Madrid and Barcelona among other cities and with the plan of spending their holidays in Majorca before moving to London in 1934. It was in London that Brandt shed his German origins and created a body of work in which the United Kingdom – a country marked by significant social inequality at that time – established itself as the core of his identity.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Dressmaker's dummy, Paris' 1929

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Dressmaker’s dummy, Paris
1929
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

During his years in Paris Brandt established connections with the Surrealist circle and with groups of photographers who aimed to make the camera both a means of expression and of earning a living. He never followed the principal trends and focused his attention on the daily life of the suburbs rather than on events of the day. Brandt’s photographs of this period reveal how he increasingly assimilated Surrealist concepts into his way of seeing. This dressmaker’s dummy found on the street is a metaphor for the idea of the double. Other images from these years, such as the hot air balloon flying over the skies of Paris, allow his early work to be seen as a type of catalogue of the principal themes of Surrealism.

 

Upstairs downstairs

The growing antipathy on the part of the British towards Nazi Germany meant that many immigrants who had arrived from the latter country changed their name. Brandt went even further than this as he completely concealed his origins and for more than twenty-five years passed himself off as a British citizen.

The 1930s was the decade of the great social protest movements and of strikes over working conditions following the 1929 financial crash. It was within this context that in 1936 Brandt published his first book, The English at Home, produced in a wide, album format. He employed a design particularly favoured by Central European graphic publications based on the combination of opposites in order to achieve a significant contrast between each pair of photographs. With these double-page spreads Brandt aimed to juxtapose two opposing social social classes, thus generating two parallel narrative discourses without mixing them together.

Following the outbreak of World War II Brandt started to work for the Ministry of Information. It was at this point that he produced two of his most famous series of images: his photographs of Londoners sleeping in Underground stations converted into improvised shelters; and his images of the city at ground level, showing a ghostly London lit only by the moon as protection against the air raids. Brandt abandoned the class differences that he had previously portrayed in favour of other types of scenes which denounced the effects of the war on the civilian population.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Couple in Peckham' 1936

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Couple in Peckham
1936
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

Following in the wake of Brassaï and the success of his book Paris de nuit (1932), Brandt began to elaborate his own version of London at night. To do this he made regular use of friends and relatives who posed for him to create the scene he wished to photograph. In this case the “accosted” woman is his sister-in-law Ester Brandt and the man in the hat is his brother Rolf. The image allows for different interpretations but the reference to the genre of crime thrillers or simply to prostitution is clear.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Unemployed miner returning home from Jarrow' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Unemployed miner returning home from Jarrow
1937
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

The 1930s were economically harsh and politically turbulent years in Europe. The 1929 financial crash led the United Kingdom to close its mines and steelworks, resulting in unemployment rising to more than 2.5 million people. Activities such as collecting pieces of coal from mining waste on the beach became a way of life for many families. Brandt’s photograph shows one of these former miners, exhausted after an unproductive day’s labour and pushing his bicycle loaded with a sack of coal, the result of his efforts.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid ready to serve dinner' 1936

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid ready to serve dinner
1933 printed later
23.81 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

This photograph was taken for a reportage published in Picture Post on 29 July 1939 with the title “The Perfect Parlourmaid” [but it never appeared in the Picture Post photo story of that name in July 1939]. Following his habitual practice, Brandt turned to his own family, in this case making use of his uncle Henry’s house. Pratt the parlourmaid waits in the dining room for the family members and their guests to be seated for dinner before starting to serve the food and attend the diners. This could be a classic image of social documentary photography except for the fact that Brandt very probably sat down at the table with the rest of the family after taking his shot. The image, however, reveals far more. The faces and poses of the two maids convey the difference between the gaze of the senior parlourmaid, which suggests both experience and assimilation of her social role, and that of her assistant, which seems to wander vaguely around the room.

 

“In his marvellous photograph the two house parlourmaids, prepared to wait at table, have eyes loaded like blunderbusses. Their starched caps and cuffs, their poker backs, mirror the terrible rectitude of learned attitudes. They have the same irritated loathing in defence of caste that shows in portraits of Evelyn Waugh.”

Mark Haworth-Booth cites Henderson in his introduction to the second edition of Brandt’s book Shadow of Light, Gordon Fraser, London 1977, p. 17.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid ready to serve dinner' 1933

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid ready to serve dinner
1933
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

“… Brandt’s parlourmaids image is unusual in that something of those social contrasts is at play within its frame and so the image doesn’t lend itself to juxtaposition in the same way.

We see a dressed dinner table of a well-to-do household and the attendant women. The head parlourmaid seems at first glance to express a stern resentment mixed with weariness and professional discipline, but there is a kind of blankness about her too. Her junior has the vacant expression of an adolescent, not yet able to grasp the social forces that will shape her, perhaps. A reading of the image made by the photographer Nigel Henderson is similar but more pointed:

“In his marvellous photograph the two house parlourmaids, prepared to wait at table, have eyes loaded like blunderbusses. Their starched caps and cuffs, their poker backs, mirror the terrible rectitude of learned attitudes. They have the same irritated loathing in defence of caste that shows in portraits of Evelyn Waugh.”

Rhetorically, this is an image of doubles and differences. Its economy of form and content forces us to see in opposites, tapping into and reinforcing a general understanding of the social structures of class and service. It is as barbed as The English at Home gets. There is nothing overtly angry or revolutionary in the generally restrained tone of Brandt’s book. However it was unusual in bringing different classes into one volume, leaving the viewer to reconcile the social contradictions and inequities.”

David Campany. Extract from “The Career of a Photographer, the Career of a Photograph – Bill Brandt’s Art of the Document,” on the David Company website [Online] Cited 10/06/2021. First published in the Tate Liverpool exhibition catalogue Making History: Art and documentary in Britain from 1929-Now, 2006

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Sheltering in a Spitalfields crypt' 1940

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Sheltering in a Spitalfields crypt
1940
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

Isidore Ducasse, who used the grandiloquent nom de plume of “the Comte de Lautréamont” for his poetic output, wrote one of the most frequently quoted definitions of Surrealist beauty: “As beautiful as the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” Locating incongruence and transforming it into a work of art was one of Surrealism’s key strategies. By adding a dash of well-developed humour to this formula Brandt brought off the recipe with aplomb. At the height of the war, with German bombing raids nightly assailing a London whose inhabitants took shelter in the Underground and in basements, Bill Brandt photographed this man. Poor and working-class, to judge from his appearance, he is seen peacefully asleep in an open tomb in a crypt in clear defiance of death itself and of the terror it supposedly arouses.

 

Portraits

As a portraitist, a genre to which he devoted himself professionally from 1943, Bill Brandt considered that the photographer’s aim should be that of capturing a “suspended” moment rather than just the appearance: “I think a good portrait ought to tell something about a subject’s past and suggest something about their future”; in other words, achieving an image that asks questions and raises issues about both the sitter and the viewer. Some of Brandt’s portraits mark a break from tradition, such as the ones published in the magazine Lilliput in 1941 to accompany the article “Young Poets of Democracy”, which includes images of some of the leading names of the Auden generation.

Brandt subsequently began to distort the space in his portraits, for example Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill, London (1963). He also produced a new series of portraits of eyes of clearly Surrealist inspiration. The eyes of Henry Moore, Georges Braque and Antoni Tàpies are among the examples of gazes that transformed the way of seeing and representing the world.

 

“I always take portraits in my sitter’s own surroundings. I concentrate very much on the picture as a whole and leave the sitter rather to himself. I hardly talk and barely look at him.” ~ Bill Brandt

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill, London' 1963

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill, London
1963
25.40 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Brandt’s portraits evolved over time. Some mark a break with tradition, such as the images published in Lilliput in 1941 to accompany the article “Young Poets of Democracy”, which included some of the most famous faces of the writers and poets of the Auden generation. He subsequently began to distort the space in his images, as evident in Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill, London (1963), and also produced a new series of portraits of eyes of clearly Surrealist inspiration. The eyes of Henry Moore, Georges Braque and Antoni Tàpies are among the examples of gazes that transformed the way of seeing and representing the world.

One of several portraits of Francis Bacon by Brandt, here the photographer used the camera he had bought for his nudes on the beach. The notably wide angle lens, which produces a sense of space distorted in depth, and the chosen moment, just after sunset with the last light of day blending with the artificial light, give the scene a strange “atmosphere” (a term Brandt considered fundamental in his images). The familiar setting of an English park becomes disturbing with the dark sky, the curiously small and bent street light and Bacon, either indifferent or engaged, who turns his back on it all.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Henry Moore in his studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire' 1946

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Henry Moore in his studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire
1946
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

The friendship and professional relations between Bill Brandt and the sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth was a lifelong one and they frequently collaborated. Moore accompanied Brandt on his visits to the night shelters in the London Underground and drew while his friend took photographs. Their work is being exhibited at The Hepworth Wakefield in 2020. The mutual influence between the two artists is evident in this portrait of Moore alongside one of his sculptures. The biomorphic forms that Moore has created from the wood recall those of Brandt’s nudes.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Graham Greene in his flat, St James's Street, London' 1948

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Graham Greene in his flat, St James’s Street, London
1948
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

The writer Graham Greene appears in this photograph next to a window which gives onto the interior courtyard of his London flat. Brandt, however, transformed a view of a simple courtyard into a type of labyrinth of lines in which it is difficult to discern what belongs to the window, what to the triangular shape located immediately next to Greene and what to the construction in the background. This confusion, the repetition of triangles and the mixture of lines can be seen as mimicking the author’s complex plots in his novels, while the harsh light that illuminates his face, falling from the upper right downwards, imbues his figure with a theatrical aura of mystery.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Georges Braque' 1960

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Georges Braque
1960
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

The eye of…

In the early 1960s Brandt embarked on a photographic series in which he reduced the sitter’s face to a foreground shot of one of the eyes. The subjects photographed in this manner were some of the leading visual artists of the day: Ernst, Braque, Vasarely, Moore, Tàpies, Arp, Dubuffet and Giacometti. The series aims to make the viewer reflect on the role of the gaze in art. Once the imperative of resemblance is rejected, what makes a painting powerful and interesting is the artist’s gaze, the way he or she has to look at and represent reality, or simply to produce a visible reality that does not refer to any other, as in the case of Victor Vasarely and Jean Arp. The camera, that glass eye which reflected the world in the 20th century, is used here to depict the instrument through which artists have seen and interpreted that world. To be exact, however, it should be acknowledged that both the camera and the eye are mere tools and that the essence of the process takes place “further back”, in the mind.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Jean Dubuffet' 1960

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Jean Dubuffet
1960
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

This closely cropped eye belongs to the artist Jean Dubuffet. Brandt made ten photographs of notable visual artists; a few seem to have been taken at the same session as a published portrait, although none appear to be enlargements from other known works. They are striking departures from Brandt’s typical practice, mysterious despite their clarity of description, and they underscore the photographer’s experimental impulse, even late in his career. There is no record of their ever being published in a magazine.

MoMA gallery label from Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light, March 6 – August 12, 2013.

 

Landscapes described

Following his engagement with portraiture Brandt introduced landscape into his repertoire, thus encompassing all the categories traditionally considered to constitute the classic artistic genres. In his landscapes he aimed to introduce an atmosphere that connects with the viewer in order to provoke an emotional response from contemplation of the work. In this sense it would seem that Brandt did not merely aim to represent a place but to capture its very essence in a single image, as in Halifax; “Hail Hell & Halifax” (1937) and Cuckmere River (1963). When these landscapes started to include stone constructions such as tombs and crosses Brandt considered that he had achieved his aim: “Thus it was I found atmosphere to be the spell that charged the commonplace with beauty. … I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange.”

It should be remembered that for Brandt the concept of landscape was deeply rooted in painting and the photographic tradition but also in literature. Literary Britain, which was published in 1951, makes this relationship clear. Brandt used images already published in other weekly magazines as well as photographs specially taken for this book, accompanying them with extracts from works by British authors.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) Halifax; 'Hail, Hell and Halifax' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Halifax; ‘Hail, Hell and Halifax’
1937
23.50 x 20.32cm
Bill Brandt Archive
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

In the social portrait that Brandt created of England in the 1930s the northern industrial cities made an inevitable appearance. Coal mining and steel production, both affected by a major crisis during this period, gave cities like Halifax and Newcastle a dark, sombre appearance which Brandt masterfully conveyed in his images. The photograph’s title refers to a verse from a popular 17th century poem by John Taylor: “From Hell, Hull and Halifax, Good Lord, deliver us!”, referring to the harshness of justice in those two cities.

 

The reputation of the great British documentary photographer Bill Brandt rests in large part on his capacity to manage the tension between black and white in a photograph. For Brandt, strong tonal contrast came to represent the social and cultural experience of Britain between the wars – a place of vast contrasts between rich and poor, worker and elite, urban and rural. But strong tonal contrast, and blackness in particular, carried other, more metaphysical associations. For Brandt, blackness represented the forces and mysteries at work in the world, a place of power and tragedy. Blackness in a photograph also introduced ‘a new beauty’ to the subject, one that intensified the visual and emotional experience of it.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Gull's nest, midsummer evening, Skye' 1947

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Gull’s nest, midsummer evening, Skye
1947
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

Brandt saw this gull’s nest on a sunny afternoon during his trip to photograph northern Scotland. The light was too flat so he decided to return later. This was close to the time of year of the midnight sun. As Brandt wrote: “When I approached the nest on an isolated outpost of rocks, an enormously large gull which had been sitting on the eggs flew off and circled low around my head, barking like a dog. It was windstill, the mountains of the Scottish mainland were reflected in the sea – the light was now just right for the picture.”

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, London' 1952

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, London
1952
22.86 x 19.37cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Nudes

In 1944 Brandt returned to the theme of the nude. For the artist, documentary photography had become a widely extended fashion while the old Great Britain with its marked class divisions was now something of the past. It should also be remembered that the nude is one of the traditional themes of painting and as such signals Brandt’s evolution from documentary photography to the social status of “artist”.

In the 1950s he visited the French Channel Coast beaches in order to make a series of portraits of the painter Georges Braque. Seeing those pebble beaches led to a change of direction and he started to photograph stones and parts of the female body as if they were stones themselves. He combined flesh and rock, heat and cold, hardness and softness in a single formal discourse.

The distortions are often so pronounced that the parts of the body have lost any reference point but they nonetheless produce sensations that are more poetic or profound. It may be that for Brandt these “fragments” of the human body in comparison or communion with natural forms represented primordial forms of some type through which we can perceive “the totality of the world”, as with the Urformen of the Gestalt School and its theory of perception.

Brandt’s nudes of the late 1970s bear no relation to his earlier ones. They transmit a certain sense of violence which reveals the alienation of an artist who no longer felt himself part of the world in which he lived.

 

“Instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed.” ~ Bill Brandt

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, Campden Hill, London' 1947

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, Campden Hill, London
1947
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

The Kodak camera that Brandt found in a second-hand shop near Covent Garden was designed to produce a clear image of an interior space without any major technical complications. It offered an unusual vision of the motif, creating a space that evokes a dreamlike mood. Most of Brandt’s photographs of nudes in interiors were taken with this old wooden camera which imbues the scene with a sensation of both beauty and disquiet. The repetition of specific visual elements such as windows, which are always in the background of the scene, half-open doors and different pieces of furniture, including the two chairs in this image, suggests issues such as absence, the desire to escape or a complex representation of desire stripped of the object (equivalent to reducing it to its most primary sense).

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, East Sussex coast' 1959

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, East Sussex coast
1959
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, East Sussex coast' 1977

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, East Sussex coast
1977
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

While walking on the Channel Coast beaches, Brandt’s attention was caught by the rounded forms of the rocks on the beach and their resemblance to some forms of the human body. This idea gave rise to his series of nudes photographed outdoors. For this project he abandoned his old Kodak plate camera in favour of a Hasselblad with a wide angle lens and his much used Rolleiflex. The formal interplay that he began to develop in this photograph is closely related to the constructivist nature of what the theoreticians of the Gestalt school (the German psychology movement which began to analyse the bases of human perception in the early 20th century) called Urformen or primordial forms. The combination of both elements, rock and flesh, hard and soft, produces a series of relationships that can be associated with Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture.

 

In Praise of Imperfection

In the introduction to Camera in London, his book on that city published in 1948, Brandt wrote: “I consider it essential that the photographer should do his own printing and enlarging. The final effect of the finished print depends so much on these operations. And only the photographer himself knows the effect he wants.”

For the artist, hands-on work in the photographic lab was essential for ensuring control over the final image, which in most cases was the stage prior to the publishing process when the image appeared in a book or magazine. At the outset of his career Brandt had learned a wide range of traditional techniques, including blow-up, enlarging and the use of brushes, scrapers and other tools.

These manual retouchings sometimes gave his photographs that rather crude look which can be associated with the above-mentioned Freudian concept of unheimlich or “sinister”. Many of them clearly show brushstrokes of black wash on the surface, for example At Charlie Brown’s, Limehouse (1946), displayed in this section of the exhibition.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'At Charlie Brown's, Limehouse' 1945/1946

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
At Charlie Brown’s, Limehouse
1945/1946
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'At Charlie Brown's, Limehouse' 1945/1946

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
At Charlie Brown’s, Limehouse
1945/1946
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

In the background of this image, taken in one of London’s East End pubs, is another one: a poster issued by the military Red Cross and referring to that organisation’s work on the battlefields during World War I. It is not known why, in the second version of the image, Brandt partly obscured the poster with black wash, the medium he most commonly used to retouch his photographs.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'A snicket in Halifax' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
A snicket in Halifax
1937
25.40 x 20.50cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'A snicket in Halifax' 1937

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
A snicket in Halifax
1937, printed later
25.40 x 20.50cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

In 1951 Brandt started to develop his photographs using a high contrast paper in order to obtain very dark and light zones in the same image. This led him to develop some of his best known images again, including A snicket in Halifax. In contrast to the earlier prints of that photograph, in which the details of the façade of the building on the left are perfectly visible, he now reinterpreted the image with the façade totally blackened and thus strongly contrasting with the glint on the ramp’s cobblestones while adding a plume of black smoke in the sky.

As early as 1997 Nigel Warburton, an art historian who has undertaken some of the best work on Brandt, questioned the concept of authenticity in this photograph in one of his texts, reflecting on the changes that Brandt had introduced in the prints of his images. Warburton asked which is the most “authentic”, emphasising the fact that the way in which the artist interpreted a single negative had changed over time and rejecting the idea that the simple distinction between what are known as “vintage” prints and later reprints resolves this issue.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, Vasterival, Normandy' 1954

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, Vasterival, Normandy
1954
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, Vasterival, Normandy' 1954

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, Vasterival, Normandy
1954
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

In contrast to photographic purists such as Edward Weston, Brandt had no objection to retouching his images, cropping them or reversing the negative in accordance with his preferences or to meet the requirements of its layout on the printed page. Here we see two versions of the same image with the negative flipped in the enlarger. This is not a unique case and there are other examples in the exhibition: Policeman in a dockland alley, Bermondsey was published in two versions, while Behind the restaurant is a photograph that was always printed in reverse, as evident from the lettering on the boxes.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Policeman in a Dockland Alley, Bermondsey' 1934

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Policeman in a Dockland Alley, Bermondsey
1934
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Top Withens, West Riding, Yorkshire' 1944-1945

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Top Withens, West Riding, Yorkshire
1944-1945
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

This photograph was included in Brandt’s book Literary Britain (1951) and he recalled how he visited the place various times in order to take it, considering it one of the settings that best conveyed the world of Emily Brontë’s works. The farm, now a ruin, is supposedly the place that inspired her novel Wuthering Heights.

For the painter David Hockney, a great admirer of Brandt, this was one of his favourite photographs but he was extremely disappointed to discover that it is in fact a composite image and that the storm filled clouds, which descend almost to the ground, were taken from another negative and added in the photography lab. The other photograph, taken from higher up on the hill, provides the reverse shot on a foggy winter day.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Top Withens, West Riding, Yorkshire' 1944-1945

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Top Withens, West Riding, Yorkshire
1944-1945
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Barmaid at the Crooked Billet, Tower Hill' March 1939

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Barmaid at the Crooked Billet, Tower Hill
March 1939
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

 

 

Bill Brandt employed a wide range of retouching techniques on his prints, which was common practice in analogue photography, in which tiny scratches on the negative or specks of dust that cannot be completely removed leave marks on the photographic paper. In addition, Brandt often attempted to conceal imperfections in the individuals or objects photographed. The most widely used materials for this were watercolour, Conté crayon and even lead pencil. Brandt, however, also frequently used a scraper and Indian ink.

In this photograph the outline of the barmaid’s face, her eye and eyebrows have been reinforced with a metal point to define the lines, while the use of watercolour and Conté crayon allows various imperfections in the area of the left arm to be concealed.

 

Bill Brandt

Born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt in Hamburg in 1904 to a wealthy family of Russian origin, after a period living in Vienna and Paris in 1934 Brandt decided to settle in London. Within the context of growing hostility to all things German due to the rise of Nazism, he attempted to erase all traces of his origins to the point of stating that he was British by nationality. This concealment and the creation of a new personality enveloped Brandt’s life in an aura of mystery and conflict that was directly reflected in his work. His images aim to construct a vision of the country that he embraced as his own, although not of the real country but rather of the idea that he had created of it during his childhood through reading and from stories told by relatives.

Brandt had tuberculosis as a child and it was seemingly in the Swiss sanatoriums at Agra and Davos where his family sent him to convalesce that he first became interested in photography and where he made many of his literary discoveries: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Kafka, Guy de Maupassant, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens. After some years in Switzerland he moved to Vienna to undergo an innovative treatment for tuberculosis based on psychoanalysis. Imbued with a post-Romantic air, Brandt’s photographs always seems to be located on the edge, provoking simultaneous attraction and rejection.

As the exhibition’s curator Ramón Esparza has noted, they can be related to the concept of unheimlich, a term first used by Sigmund Freud in 1919. The adjective unheimlich – generally translated as “the uncanny”, “the sinister” or “the disturbing”, and which according to Eugenio Trías “constitutes the condition and limit of the beautiful” – is one of the characteristic traits that remains present throughout Brandt’s career. Psychoanalytical theories were one of the fundamental pillars of Surrealism and their influence extended to the entire Parisian cultural scene in the 1930s. Brandt and his first partner, Eva Boros, moved to the French capital in 1930 where he worked as an assistant in Man Ray’s studio. Without ever actively participating in any of the historic avant-garde movements, he undoubtedly assimilated the ideas that circulated in a city filled with young artists, many of them immigrants looking to make their way in the professional art world. Brandt’s images of this period suggest a catalogue of psychoanalytical “themes”, clearly reflecting the influence of Surrealism on him.

Almost all Brandt’s images, both the pre-war social documentary type and those from his subsequent more “artistic” phase, possess a powerful poetic charge as well as that very typical aura of strangeness and mystery in which, as in his own life, reality and fiction are always mixed.

 

The exhibition

Fundación MAPFRE is delighted to be presenting the first retrospective in Spain on Bill Brandt (Hamburg 1904 – London, 1983), considered one of the most influential British photographers of the 20th century. The exhibition, together with Paul Strand. Fundación MAPFRE Collections, inaugurates the KBr Fundación MAPFRE, our new Photography Centre in Barcelona.

The exhibition presents 186 photographs developed by Brandt himself who, over the course of nearly five decades of professional activity, encompassed almost all the principal photographic genres: reportage, portraiture, the nude and landscape, as noted by his biographer Paul Delany in Bill Brandt. A Life, 2004.

The structure of the exhibition, which is divided into six sections, reveals how all these qualities – in which identity and the concept of “the uncanny” become the principal ones – blend together in the work of this eclectic artist. Above all Brandt was considered a flâneur or stroller in a way comparable to his admired Eugène Atget, whom he always considered one of his masters.

 

The early photographs

After initiating his activities as a photographer in Vienna, where he produced the famous and widely praised portrait of the poet Ezra Pound in 1928, Bill Brandt left for Paris in order to work for a short period as an assistant in Man Ray’s studio. In the French capital Brandt encountered Surrealism, which would influence his work from that point onwards. Some of his images, such as Balloon flying over the northern suburbs of Paris (1929), can be related to the psychoanalytical theories of Freud, who considered a hot air balloon in a dream to be a symbol of the masculine. Brandt’s photographs of this period are also closely related to the earlier work of his admired Eugène Atget; like him, Brandt photographed street scenes and Parisian nightlife (images that precede his subsequent, better known work) in which the above-mentioned notion of the disturbing makes its appearance.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Evening in Kew Gardens' 1932

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Evening in Kew Gardens
1932
25.24 x 20.48cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Brandt and his partner Eva Boros (another of Man Ray’s students who had previously studied with André Kertész) travelled on numerous occasions to the Hungarian steppes, to his native Hamburg and to Spain, where they visited Madrid and Barcelona among other cities and with the plan of spending their holidays in Majorca before moving to London in 1934. It was at this point that Brandt shed his German origins, even to the point of inventing British nationality for himself and creating a body of work in which the United Kingdom – a country marked by significant social inequality at that time – established itself as the core of his identity.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

“Bill Brandt was a man who loved secrets, and needed them. The face he presented to the world was that of an English-born gentleman, someone who could easily blend in with the racegoers at Ascot whom he liked to photograph. [A] façade which he would defend with outright lies if he had to […]. Today, many people are eager to discover their roots and make an identity from them. Brandt did the exact opposite: he buried his true origins and presented himself as a completely different person from the one he had been, in reality, for the first twenty-five years of his life.”

Paul Delany starts his biography of Bill Brandt with these lines. According to that author, Brandt not only wanted to live in England but to become English, which was understandable in the context of the growing British antipathy to Nazi Germany and to the events that followed Hitler’s rise to power and the outbreak of World War II. In the London art world it was habitual practice for emigrants arriving from Germany to change their name. Among those who had done so were Stefan Lorant, a Hungarian who had been the editor-in-chief of the Münchner Illustrierte Presse, and two of his photographers, Hans Baumann and Kurt Hübschmann, who anglicised their names to Felix Man and Kurt Hutton, just as Brandt changed his first name to Bill.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'East End girl dancing the 'Lambeth Walk'' March 1939

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
East End girl dancing the ‘Lambeth Walk’
March 1939
22.86 x 19.68cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

In February 1936, two years after his arrival in London, Brandt published his first book, The English at Home. Despite their natural, spontaneous appearance, the scenes reproduced in the book were carefully prepared in advance. For this first book Brandt opted for a wide, album format and made use of one of the design formats most commonly employed in Central European graphic publications: the combination of opposites in order to create a significant contrast between each pair of photographs. Brandt aimed to juxtapose and counterbalance two different social classes on each double-page spread, developing two parallel narrative discourses but without mixing them together. We thus see family scenes of the upper classes out strolling or dining, followed by the same activities undertaken by working-class and mining families. Two years after the publication of The English at Home Brandt published A Night in London, which represents a type of replica of a work by Brassaï, one of the photographers he most admired, whose book Paris de nuit had appeared in France six years earlier. A Night in London can be seen as Brandt’s contribution to the photographic and cinematographic genre that some art historians have termed “the symphony of the metropolis.”

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Elephant & Castle Underground' 1940

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Elephant & Castle Underground
1940
25.72 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Elephant and Castle underground station during WWII. 1942. Deep underground at Elephant and Castle Underground station, Bill Brandt photographed many hundreds sleeping as they sought shelter from the Blitz overhead.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Brandt started to work for the Ministry of Information, producing two of his most celebrated series. The first comprises photographs of hundreds of Londoners sleeping in Underground stations converted into improvised shelters, while the second portrays the city on the surface; a ghostly London lit only by moonlight as a safety precaution due to the air raids. The United Kingdom had become a single country united against the enemy. Brandt abandoned the class differences that he had previously portrayed in favour of other types of scenes which denounced the effects of the war on the civilian population.

 

Portraits

While Brandt produced photographs on an independent basis that he would subsequently group together for his different books, much of his output appeared in publications and magazines such as Picture Post, as well as in Lilliput and in the American edition of Harper’s Bazaar, for which he started to work in 1943. It was at this point that he turned to portraiture as a professional activity. His first reference to his portraits, of which more than 400 are known, was published in Lilliput in 1948. In Brandt’s words: “André Breton once said that a portrait should not only be an image but an oracle one questions, and that the photographer’s aim should be a profound likeness, which physically and morally predicts the subject’s entire future. […] The photographer has to wait until something between dreaming and action occurs in the expression of a face.”

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Francis Bacon' c. 1951

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Francis Bacon
c. 1951
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

Brandt’s portraits evolved over time. Some mark a break with tradition, such as the images published in Lilliput in 1941 to accompany the article “Young Poets of Democracy”, which included some of the most famous faces of the writers and poets of the Auden generation. He subsequently began to distort the space in his images, as evident in Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill, London (1963), and also produced a new series of portraits of eyes of clearly Surrealist inspiration. The eyes of Henry Moore, Georges Braque and Antoni Tàpies are among the examples of gazes that transformed the way of seeing and representing the world.

 

Landscape described

Following his focus on portraiture, Brandt introduced landscape into his repertoire, thus encompassing all the categories traditionally considered to constitute the classic artistic genres. In his landscapes he aimed to introduce an atmosphere – a term that for Brandt seems to involve an entire series of aesthetic references associated with both the pictorial and the literary traditions – which connects with the viewer in order to provoke an emotional response from contemplation of the image. In this sense it would seem that Brandt did not aim to merely represent a place but to capture its very essence in a single image, as in Halifax; “Hail Hell & Halifax” (1937) and Cuckmere River (1963). When these landscapes started to include stone constructions such as tombs and crosses Brandt considered that he had achieved his aim of capturing the atmosphere.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Cuckmere River' (Río Cuckmere) 1963

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Cuckmere River (Río Cuckmere)
1963
20 x 24.13cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

It should be remembered that for Brandt the concept of landscape was deeply rooted in painting and the photographic tradition but also in literature. Literary Britain, which was published in 1951, makes this relationship clear. Using images already published in other weekly magazines as well as photographs specially taken for this book, Brandt accompanied his photographs with extracts from works by British authors. It is here that an explanation of his somewhat imprecise concept of “atmosphere” can be found: the moment when the different elements that make up the landscape (nature, light, viewpoint, weather conditions) converge in an aesthetic canon rooted in a cultural tradition.

 

Nudes

When Brandt focused again on the theme of the nude in 1944 he seemed to feel the need to return to a more poetic type of image. For the artist, documentary photography had become a widely extended fashion while the old Great Britain with its marked class divisions was now something of the past. It should also be remembered that the nude is one of the traditional themes of painting and as such signals Brandt’s evolution from documentary photography to the social status of “artist”. For this transition he made use of an old plate camera with a lens that produced an effect of broad spatiality and depth, transforming the everyday space of a room into a dreamlike setting.

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, Baie des Anges, France' 1959

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, Baie des Anges, France (Desnudo, Baie de Anges, Francia)
1959
25.24 x 20.32cm
Private collection
Courtesy Bill Brandt Archive and Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

 

 

In the 1950s Brandt visited the beaches of Normandy in order to make a series of portraits of the painter Georges Braque. Seeing those pebble beaches led to a change of direction and he started to photograph stones and parts of the female body as if they were stones themselves. He combined flesh and rock, heat and cold, hardness and softness in a single formal discourse. The distortions are often so pronounced that the parts of the body have lost any reference point but they nonetheless produce sensations that are more poetic or profound. It may be that for Brandt these “fragments” of the human body in comparison or communion with natural forms represented primordial forms of some type through which we can perceive “the totality of the world”, as with the Urformen of the Gestalt School and its theory of perception.

In the late 1970s Brandt again returned to the theme of the nude but these images bear no relation to his earlier ones. They transmit a certain sense of violence which reveals the alienation of an artist who no longer felt himself part of the world in which he lived.

 

In Praise of Imperfection

In the introduction to Camera in London, his book on that city published in 1948, Brandt wrote: “I consider it essential that the photographer should do his own printing and enlarging. The final effect of the finished print depends so much on these operations. And only the photographer himself knows the effect he wants.” Brandt was far more concerned than many other photographs with the actual developing of his analogue photographs. He considered working in the photographic lab to be essential and he could spend hours there in order to ensure complete control over the final image, which in most cases was the stage prior to the publishing process when the image appeared in a book or magazine. At the outset of his career he had learned a wide range of traditional techniques, including blow-up, enlarging and the use of brushes, scrapers and other tools, as can be seen in the works displayed in the case in this room, which include various prints of the same image retouched in different ways. These manual retouchings sometimes gave his photographs that rather crude look which can be seen in the context of the above-mentioned Freudian concept of unheimlich or “the uncanny”. A large number of these images clearly show brushstrokes of black wash on the surface. Another example is Top Withens, West Riding, Yorkshire of 1945, an image taken for Brandt’s book Literary Britain. It includes clear signs that the stormy sky which gives the landscape a more threatening appearance was added later in the lab.

 

The catalogue

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition includes reproductions of all the works on display, in addition to a principal essay by the project’s curator, Ramón Esparza, doctor of Communication Sciences and professor of Audiovisual Communication at the Universidad del País Vasco, and another by Maud de la Forterie, doctor in Art History at the Sorbonne, whose doctoral thesis was devoted to the work of Bill Brandt. The catalogue also features an essay by Nigel Warburton on the artist, originally published in 1993 and revised for the present edition, and Bill Brandt’s text “A Statement” which was published in the magazine Album in March 1970.

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 915 81 61 00

Opening hours:
Monday (except holidays) from 2.00pm – 8.00pm
Tuesday to Saturday from 11.00am – 8.00pm
Sundays and holidays from 11.00am – 7.00pm

Fundación Mapfre website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

26
Jun
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 4

June 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'York Minster' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
225: York Minster
1926

 

 

The last in my four part series on photographs which appear in E. O. Hoppé’s Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape (1926).

This posting features photographs of the Lake District, Scotland and Ireland.

Today, it seems incredibly strange that Hoppé would include Dublin and all parts Ireland in the catch all “Great Britain”, especially as most of Ireland gained independence from Great Britain in 1922, after the bloody Irish War of Independence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Roman Wall' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
234: Roman Wall
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'In Westmorland Country' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
235: In Westmorland Country
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Kendal, Westmorland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
236: Kendal, Westmorland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Windemere, Westmorland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
237: Windemere, Westmorland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Newcastle, Northumberland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
238: Newcastle, Northumberland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carter Bar, Northumberland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
239: Carter Bar, Northumberland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dunbar, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
240: Dunbar, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dunbar, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
241: Dunbar, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Edinburgh Castle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
242: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)'The Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
243: The Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Canongate with Tolbooth, Edinburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
244: Canongate with Tolbooth, Edinburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Advocates Walk, Edingburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
248: The Advocates Walk, Edingburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Forth Bridge, Edingburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
249: Forth Bridge, Edingburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Viaduct, Montrose, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
255: The Viaduct, Montrose, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Near Peebles, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
257: Near Peebles, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Harbour, Aberdeen, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
259: The Harbour, Aberdeen, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Deeside, Aberdeen, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
261: Deeside, Aberdeen, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Braemar Castle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
262: Braemar Castle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Devil's Elbow, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
264: Devil’s Elbow, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'On the Road to Balmoral, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
265: On the Road to Balmoral, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Highland Cattle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
267: Highland Cattle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Loch Lomond, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
268: Loch Lomond, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'A Scottish Sunset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
269: A Scottish Sunset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Scottish Highlands' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
272: The Scottish Highlands
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The College Green, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
273: The College Green, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Loch Tulla, Argyllshire, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
274: Loch Tulla, Argyllshire, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dumbarton, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
275: Dumbarton, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
276: Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
277: Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
278: Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Custom's House, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
279: The Custom’s House, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Spittal of Glenshee, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
280: Spittal of Glenshee, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
281: Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Lambay Castle, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
283: Lambay Castle, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Luccan, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
284: Luccan, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glendalough Lake, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
287: Glendalough Lake, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glendalough, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
289: Glendalough, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
291: Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
292: Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Middle Lake, Killarney, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
293: The Middle Lake, Killarney, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cathedral, Cork, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
296: The Cathedral, Cork, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Memorial Church, Cork, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
297: The Memorial Church, Cork, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Lower Lake, Killarney, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
299: The Lower Lake, Killarney, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The River Shannon, Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
301: The River Shannon, Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
302: Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
303: The Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Scalp Mountains, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
304: The Scalp Mountains, Ireland
1926

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

12
Jun
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 3

June 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Market Cross, Castlecoombe, Wiltshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
145: Market Cross, Castlecoombe, Wiltshire
1926

 

 

Part 3 of my humungous posting on photographs from E.O. Hoppé’s book Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape 1926.

I found a little more information about Hoppé’s process:

“He travelled across many countries including Great Britain, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the United States, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand for projects such as the Orbis Terrarum book series for the Berlin-based publishing company Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, and devoted months, often a year or more, of his careful, meticulous attention to each of these countries in order to, as he himself once wrote, eventually select from 5000 negatives 300 images that could together with a text for the respective country, represent the selected topic and be published.”

Over a year in time, taken from 5000 negatives, to select 300 images. This means that Hoppé was working on a ratio of using about 6% of all the photographs of a subject that he took. From my personal experience I always work on 10% of what I take being “good” images, with about 5% actually being usable in a series, sequence or body of work.

As in the earlier postings, we can again see many of his compositional devices at work: double vanishing points (189: Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk), occlusion of foreground looking at subject in distance (186: Castle Rising, Norfolk; 199: Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent), superb use of “near far” (185: The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk; 190: The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk), modernity and the geometric construction of the image plane (169: Caius Cambridge, Cambridge), strong elements holding up one side of the image and leading the eye into the subject (156: Pangbourne, Berkshire; 183: Walberswick, Suffolk); and wonderful use of light and chiaroscuro to picture atmosphere and emotion in the archaic and modern (218: The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire; 219: Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire; 221: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire; 227: Evening, York).

Boy, would I like to see the ones he rejected!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'At Hatfield, Hertfordshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
147: At Hatfield, Hertfordshire
1926

 

 

Emil Otto Hoppé (born 1878 in Munich, died 1972 in England) was an exciting and mysterious phenomenon. During his lifetime, especially in the 1910s, 20s, 30s and 40s, he was one of the most famous photographers in the world and a highly-respected portrait photographer in London, with a large house and studio in South Kensington (Millais House, which had 27 rooms on four floors and had previously been inhabited by the renowned Victorian painter John Everett Millais) as well as a clientele comprising the most important politicians, businessmen, artists, dancers, poets, writers, philosophers and of course the English nobility, including Queen Mary and King George V. For many years he was a dedicated travel photographer. He travelled across many countries including Great Britain, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the United States, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand for projects such as the Orbis Terrarum book series for the Berlin-based publishing company Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, and devoted months, often a year or more, of his careful, meticulous attention to each of these countries in order to, as he himself once wrote, eventually select from 5000 negatives 300 images that could together with a text for the respective country, represent the selected topic and be published. “Romantic America”, “Picturesque Great Britain: The Architecture and the Landscape”, “Romantik der Kleinstadt”, “The Fifth Continent” [Australia] and “Deutsche Arbeit” are the titles of just some of the 20 books he published in his lifetime. …

The first task in the development of the history of photography was to build as simple a framework as possible and to gain a recognisable, nameable overview of the key movements. The work of Emil Otto Hoppé perhaps simply did not to fit in; instead his diversity and attitude must have been unsettling. On the one hand, he threw quite a modern look on the people, villages, landscapes and especially industries. At the same time he was for long periods wont to print his pictures in more tonal and soft-focus ways. His black-and-white pictures are often characterised by a particularly dense and colourful tonality, while his portraits (and other genres) are often soft and almost a little out-of-focus. He himself describes printing his portraits as follows in his autobiography “Hundred Thousand Exposures: The Success of a Photographer” from 1945: “I use a soft-focus lens in the enlarger. I begin the exposure with the smallest stop considered advisable. During the exposure the iris diaphragm is slowly opened and closed. The effect is calculated by dividing the estimated exposure by the smallest stop used in the process and closing the iris diaphragm for fractions of the period which are approximately 1/5, 1/20, 3/4 (…) The final effect is a roundness which I have not found it possible to obtain by another method.” …

In a speech delivered by E.O. Hoppé to the Royal Photography Society in 1946, he addressed some of these issues himself. For example: “The function of the camera here would be to make a simple, straightforward picture, which probably would not be accepted by any Salon of Photography. No tricks of exposure, angle or printing would have a place.” […] “The search for the most effective angle is the prime task of the photographer, and his success will largely be judged by his success in that search. The harm comes when he does not look for the most effective angle but for the most bizarre and peculiar.” […] “I see no reason to think a man a better artist because he ignores public taste, despises supply and demand and has dirty finger-nails.” […] “Similarly, I cannot agree with the intellectual snobbishness which declares that a man who wears a clean shirt and has a bank account is necessarily a tradesman and cannot be an artist.” His line of argument seems to address some reasons why his work was for a long time forgotten vis-à-vis a romantic image of the artist and the search for an approach that could be precisely isolated and named.

Anonymous. “Emil Otto Hoppé: Unveiling a Secret Industrial Photographs, 1912-1937,” on the Urs Stahel website January 2015 [Online] Cited 18 May 2020

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Spires of Oxford, Oxfordshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
148: The Spires of Oxford, Oxfordshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cloisters, New College, Oxford' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
150: The Cloisters, New College, Oxford
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Pangbourne, Berkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
156: Pangbourne, Berkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'West Hagbourne, Berkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
157: West Hagbourne, Berkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Trinity Gates, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
164: Trinity Gates, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Caius Cambridge, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
169: Caius Cambridge, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Old Inn & Hostelry, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
171: Old Inn & Hostelry, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Haddenham, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
172: Haddenham, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Housetops, Cathedral Close, Ely, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
175: Housetops, Cathedral Close, Ely, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
177: Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
178: Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Fine Specimens of Ancient Domestic Architecture, Plastered Houses at Ipswich, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
181: Fine Specimens of Ancient Domestic Architecture, Plastered Houses at Ipswich, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Near Walberswick, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
182: Near Walberswick, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Walberswick, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
183: Walberswick, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Market House, Wymondham, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
184: Market House, Wymondham, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
185: The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Castle Rising, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
186: Castle Rising, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Cottage at Southery, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
187: Cottage at Southery, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
189: Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
190: The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'An Essex Landscape' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
193: An Essex Landscape
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Beeleigh Abbey, Essex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
195: Beeleigh Abbey, Essex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Plastered House, Safron Walden, Essex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
196: Plastered House, Safron Walden, Essex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Friars, Aylesford, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
198: The Friars, Aylesford, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
199: Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Staplehurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
200: Staplehurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
201: Allington Castle, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
202: Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
203: Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Old Smithy, Penhurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
205: The Old Smithy, Penhurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Penhurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
207: Penhurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Cobham Hall, Gravesend, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
208: Cobham Hall, Gravesend, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Canterbury Cathedral, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
211: Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Weavers, Cantebury, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
213: The Weavers, Cantebury, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Tideswell Cathedral, Derbyshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
215: Tideswell Cathedral, Derbyshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
218: The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
219: Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
221: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
222: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
224: Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Evening, York' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
227: Evening, York
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
228: Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Durham Cathedral, Durham' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
229: Durham Cathedral, Durham
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'In Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
231: In Durham Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
232: The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral
1926

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

27
May
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 2

May 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Land's End, Cornwall' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
74: Land’s End, Cornwall
1926

 

 

In this, the second tranche of photographs from E. O. Hoppé’s 1926 book Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape, we can analyse some of the techniques of picture construction that the artist has so creatively mastered.

Firstly, that of the floating horizon line. In photographs such as 74: Land’s End, Cornwall; 80: Selworthy, Somerset; 82: Selworthy Church, Selworthy, Somerset; 84: Minehead, Somerset; and 91: Cambden Crescent in Bath, Somerset, Hoppé com/piles the foreground with tone, form and structure, but let’s the eye escape to a distant horizon which moves up and down, according to context, place, space… within the image frame. Time and again he uses this method of allowing the eye to escape the confines of the image.

Secondly, a framing device that the artist is particularly fond of is that of the road, pathway or bridge that helps lead the eye into the image and on to the vanishing point. We can see this approach in photographs such as 96: Approach to Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral; 97: The Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire; 101: Withe Cottage, Conway, Wales; and 132: The Bridge, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire.

Another framing device that the artist uses very effectively is what I call the blocked approach (to the subject) – which can be seen in photographs such as 77: Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset; 117: Chester, Cheshire; 119: Norman Arches, Much Wenlock Abbey, Shropshire; and 142: Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire, where the object which is in focus in the distance is revealed through out of focus arches, wood, masonry or pillars.

A further device is that of the mid-distance band within the pictorial plane, where Hoppé contains the important architectural information into a central section of information. In photographs such as 103: Carnavon Castle, Wales; 121: Evesham, Worcestershire; and 144: Bideston, Wiltshire the artist focuses the viewers attention in the mid-distance, where the buildings float between ground and air. Instead of closing in to fill the frame, Hoppé is content, satisfied with things as they are… happy to enunciate in the images the sum of what he has perceived, discovered, and learned about his subject, without the need to approach to closely or force the matter. In other words, he lets the architecture speak for itself within the landscape.

In looking at architectural forms of different periods, Hoppé does not rely on the formulaic, the tried and tested traditions of landscape and architecture photography from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. His is not the normal seeing of flat images with limited depth (of substance, of feeling). He is too talented (and experimental) and artist for that.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Packhorse Bridge, Allerford, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
75: Packhorse Bridge, Allerford, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
77: Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Selworthy, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
80: Selworthy, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Selworthy, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
81: Selworthy, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Selworthy Church, Selworthy, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
82: Selworthy Church, Selworthy, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'From Porlock Hill, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
83: From Porlock Hill, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Minehead, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
84: Minehead, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Minehead, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
86: Minehead, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Market Place, Dunster' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
87: The Market Place, Dunster
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Royal Crescent, Bath, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
89: The Royal Crescent, Bath, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bath, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
90: Bath, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Cambden Crescent in Bath, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
91: Cambden Crescent in Bath, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Wells Cathedral, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
93: Wells Cathedral, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Approach to Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
96: Approach to Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
97: The Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Pembridge, Herefordshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
98: Pembridge, Herefordshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Withe Cottage, Conway, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
101: Withe Cottage, Conway, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carnavon Castle, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
102: Carnavon Castle, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carnavon Castle, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
103: Carnavon Castle, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Pass of Bwlch-Goerd, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
105: Pass of Bwlch-Goerd, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bwlch-Goerd Pass, on the Road to Bala, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
106: Bwlch-Goerd Pass, on the Road to Bala, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Druid Circle, Aberystwyth, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
107: The Druid Circle, Aberystwyth, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'On the Bwlch-y-Goerd Pass, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
108: On the Bwlch-y-Goerd Pass, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Beddgelert, Carnavonshire, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
110: Beddgelert, Carnavonshire, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Llandinam Lake, Mid-Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
111: Llandinam Lake, Mid-Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Snowdon, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
112: Snowdon, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Snowdon at Pen-y-Gwryd, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
113: Snowdon at Pen-y-Gwryd, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Llanberis Pass, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
114: Llanberis Pass, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Wye Valley, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
115: Wye Valley, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'In the Wye Valley, Wales' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
116: In the Wye Valley, Wales
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Chester, Cheshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
117: Chester, Cheshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Norman Arches, Much Wenlock Abbey, Shropshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
119: Norman Arches, Much Wenlock Abbey, Shropshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bridgenorth, Shropshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
120: Bridgenorth, Shropshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Evesham, Worcestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
121: Evesham, Worcestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Harlebury Castle, Worcestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
124: Harlebury Castle, Worcestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Worcester Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
125: Worcester Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Rous Lench, Worcestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
126: Rous Lench, Worcestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Court Farm, Broadway, Worcestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
127: Court Farm, Broadway, Worcestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Broadway, Worcestershire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
130: Broadway, Worcestershire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Bridge, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
132: The Bridge, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ann Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
133: Ann Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 134: The Grammar School, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
134: The Grammar School, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Welfford-on-Avon, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
135: Welfford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Leycester Hospital, Warwick, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
137: Leycester Hospital, Warwick, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Leycester Hospital, Warwick, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
138: Leycester Hospital, Warwick, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
139: Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)'Stoneleigh Abbey, Near Leamington, Warwickshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
140: Stoneleigh Abbey, Near Leamington, Warwickshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
142: Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
143: Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bideston, Wiltshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
144: Bideston, Wiltshire
1926

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

22
May
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 1

May 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape cover' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
Publisher Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape cover
1926
304 photoprints

 

 

E. O. Hoppé

Now there’s a name to conjure with!

I found this book in a charity shop, for $5. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here is a book, published in 1926, by one of the most underrated and oft forgotten of the great master photographers of the early twentieth century. It contains 304 photoprints of his journey around Great Britain – “picturesque” photographs – with all the implications that this name brings forth, with its link to Pictorialist photography.

Except, some of these photographs are far from “picturesque” ((of a place or building) visually attractive, especially in a quaint or charming way.) In fact, for the time, they can be seen as downright modern in their composition. Hoppé’s construction of the pictorial frame is exquisite. A wonderful sense of balance and proportion, use of chiaroscuro, low depth of field, geometric form, and a shear sense of space pervade these images. His use of near / far is a joy to behold, as he holds the foreground while drawing the viewers gaze into the distance, to an attendant bridge or dome of St Paul’s cathedral.

In this, the first of a four-part posting, what also strikes one is the rich tonality of these photogravure-like photoprints, with their dark, inky shadows and the sfumato blending of mid tones and highlights. Just look at Plate 33, Hoppé’s photograph of Stonehenge (below) and be swept away by this masters voice. In this photograph, as in many of the photographs, there is an almost abstract quality to them coupled with a wistful romanticism for time and place, for the history of the country he is photographing. Just imagine, hiring a car (or possibly a van) and travelling through a summer around Great Britain taking many many photographs, before whittling them down to the final 300 or so. Did he develop the film in the back of the van after each days shooting, before piling into bed at the local hotel? I don’t know, but I want to go on that road journey!

Being British, these photographs have a great pull and nostalgia for me. I love the British countryside and miss it dearly. What particularly strikes me about them is the absence of people and cars in the photographs, and how archaic and ancient this land seems. Despite being the head of the British Empire, despite being the leader of the Industrial Revolution (pictured throughout the book with pictures of Manchester and the Northern industrial cities), you cannot imagine that this country, a mere 14 years after these photographs were taken, would be on its knees after the withdrawal from Dunkirk, facing invasion from the Nazis… and yet, somehow, hold out, and eventually win the Second World War with the help of Russia and America.

These photographs portray Great Britain as an almost medieval country complete with castle and moat, cathedral and henge, fog descending over the Thames, horse and plough tilling the fields with nere a tractor in sight. People in one’s and two’s tramp the deserted streets, while thatched cottages silently await the rushing conflagration. How Great Britain, pictured here in all its beauty and serenity, survived the coming Armageddon – can perhaps be seen in these photographs very essence, their sense of history and place, of steadfastness and Britishness.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape cover' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
Publisher Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape title page
1926
304 photoprints

 

 

Emil Otto Hoppé (14 April 1878 – 9 December 1972) was a German-born British portrait, travel, and topographic photographer active between 1907 and 1945. Born to a wealthy family in Munich, he moved to London in 1900 to train as a financier, but took up photography and rapidly achieved great success.

He was the only son of a prominent banker, and was educated in the finest schools of Munich, Paris and Vienna. Upon leaving school he served apprenticeships in German banks for ten years, before accepting a position with the Shanghai Banking Corporation. He never arrived in China. The first leg of his journey took him to England where he met an old school friend. Hoppé married his old school friend’s sister, Marion Bliersbach, and stayed in London. While working for the Deutsche Bank, he became increasingly enamored with photography, and, in 1907, jettisoned his commercial career and opened a portrait studio. Within a few years, E.O. Hoppé was the undisputed leader of pictorial portraiture in Europe. To say that someone has a “household name” has become a cliché, yet in Hoppé’s case the phrase is apt. Rarely in the history of the medium has a photographer been so famous in his own lifetime among the general public. He was as famous as his sitters. It is difficult to think of a prominent name in the fields of politics, art, literature, and the theatre who did not pose for his camera.”

Although Hoppé was one of the most important photographic artists of his era and highly celebrated in his time, in 1954, at the age of 76, he sold his body of photographic work to a commercial London picture archive, the Mansell Collection. In the collection, the work was filed by subject in with millions of other stock pictures and no longer accessible by author. Almost all of Hoppé’s photographic work – that which gained him the reputation as Britain’s most influential international photographer between 1907 and 1939 – was accidentally obscured from photo-historians and from photo-history itself. It remained in the collection for over thirty years after Hoppé’s death, and was not fully accessible to the public until the collection closed down and was acquired by new owners in the United States.

In 1994 photographic art curator Graham Howe retrieved Hoppé’s photographic work from the picture library and rejoined it with the Hoppé family archive of photographs and biographical documents. This was the first time since 1954 that the complete E.O. Hoppé Collection was gathered together. Many years were spent in cataloguing, conservation, and research of the recovered work.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'London's River' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
1: London’s River
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Bankside, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
2: St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Bankside, London
1926

 

 E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Tower of London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
3: The Tower of London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'London Bridge, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
4: London Bridge, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Thames at Blackfriars, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
5: The Thames at Blackfriars, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Whitehall, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
9: Whitehall, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Westminster from the St James' Park, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
10: Westminster from the St James’ Park, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Hyde Park Corner, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
11: Hyde Park Corner, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Kensington Gardens, London' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
12: Kensington Gardens, London
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Henley Bridge, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
13: Henley Bridge, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'High Street, Guildford, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
14: High Street, Guildford, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Burford, Dorking, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
15: Burford, Dorking, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Shere, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
17: Shere, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Sutton Place, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
18: Sutton Place, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'High Street in Mayfield, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
19: High Street in Mayfield, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Seaford Cliffs, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
22: Seaford Cliffs, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Downs at Seaford, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
23: The Downs at Seaford, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Battlements, Arundel Castle, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
24: Battlements, Arundel Castle, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Entrance to Keep, Arundel Castle, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
25: Entrance to Keep, Arundel Castle, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Arundel Castle, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
26: Arundel Castle, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Old Tilting Court, Arundel Castle, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
27: The Old Tilting Court, Arundel Castle, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Horsham Church, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
28: Horsham Church, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Old Houses Horsham, Sussex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
29: Old Houses Horsham, Sussex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cave Lingfield, Surrey' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
30: The Cave Lingfield, Surrey
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Deanery Close, Winchester, Hampshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
31: The Deanery Close, Winchester, Hampshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Atlantic from Bournemouth Cliffs' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
32: The Atlantic from Bournemouth Cliffs
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
33: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ploughing, Hampshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
34: Ploughing, Hampshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Athelhampton, Dorchester, Dorsetshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
36: Athelhampton, Dorchester, Dorsetshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'St Peters Church, Dorchester, Dorsetshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
40: St Peters Church, Dorchester, Dorsetshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'High Street, In Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
41: High Street, In Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Needles, Isle of Wight' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
43: The Needles, Isle of Wight
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Landslide, Luccombe Common, Ventnor, Isle of Wight' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
44: Landslide, Luccombe Common, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Torquay, from Marine Drive, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
45: Torquay, from Marine Drive, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Coast at Salcombe, Devon' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
47: Coast at Salcombe, Devon
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Exeter Cathedral, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
49: Exeter Cathedral, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Exeter Cathedral, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
50: Exeter Cathedral, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Porlock, Somerset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
55: Porlock, Somerset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
57: Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ancient Tomb, Bovey Tracey, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
60: Ancient Tomb, Bovey Tracey, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ashburnham, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
61: Ashburnham, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Blackawton, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
62: Blackawton, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bolt Tail, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
63: Bolt Tail, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Quai, Clovelly, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
64: The Quai, Clovelly, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'High Street in Clovelly, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
65: High Street in Clovelly, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cliffs near Ilfracombe, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
66: The Cliffs near Ilfracombe, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Harbour, Ilfracombe, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
67: The Harbour, Ilfracombe, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Merriefield Church, Devonport, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
68: Merriefield Church, Devonport, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dartmouth, Devonshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
70: Dartmouth, Devonshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Coast at Fowey, Cornwall' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British born Germany, 1878-1972)
71: Coast at Fowey, Cornwall
1926

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

16
May
20

European photographic research tour: V&A Photography Centre, London

Visited October 2019 posted May 2020

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The older I grow, the more exponentially I appreciate and love these early photographs. Imagine having a collection like this!

Wonderful to see Edward Steichen’s Portrait – Lady H (1908, below) as I have a copy of Camera Work 22 in my collection.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone images by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

 

The V&A has been collecting photographs since 1856, the year the Museum was founded, and it was one of the first museums to present photography exhibitions. Since then the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most important in the world, comprising around 500,000 images. The V&A is now honoured to have added the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection to its holdings, which contains around 270,000 photographs, an extensive library, and 6,000 cameras and pieces of equipment associated with leading artists and photographic pioneers.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at our world class photography collection following the transfer of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection, which has enabled a dramatic reimagining of the way photography is presented at the V&A. The photographs curators introduce a series of five highlights that are on display in the new Photography Centre, which opened on 12th October 2018. The first phase of the centre will more than double the space dedicated to photography at the Museum.

Text from the V&A and YouTube websites

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The V&A has been collecting and exhibiting photographs since the 1850s. This image shows part o a photographic exhibition held over 100 years ago in the same galleries you are standing in today. The exhibition presented a densely packed display of images depicting the Allied Powers during the First World War.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation views)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The French inventor Niépce made the earliest surviving photographic images, which he called ‘heliographs’ or ‘sun-writing’. Only 16 are thought to still exist. Although Niépce experimented with light-sensitive plates inside a camera, he made most of his images, including this one, by placing engravings of works by other artists directly onto a metal plate. He would probably have had the resulting heliographs coated in ink and printed.

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation view)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-70) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-48) 'The Adamson Family' 1843-45

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Adamson Family (installation view)
1843-1845
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The partnership between Scottish painter Hill and chemist Adamson merged the art and science of photography. The pair initially intended to create preliminary studies for Hill’s paintings, but soon recognised photography’s artistic potential. With Hill’s knowledge of composition and lighting, and Adamson’s considerable sensitivity and dexterity in handling the camera, together they produced some of the most accomplished photographic portraits of their time.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-77) 'The Haystack' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
The Haystack
1844
From The Pencil of Nature
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-1894)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation views)
1852-1854
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Turner took out a licence to practice ‘calotype’ photography from Talbot in 1848. He contact-printed positive images from paper negatives. The negative (below) and its corresponding positive (above) are reunited here to illustrate this process, but the pairing as you see them would not have been the photographer’s original intention for display. Although unique negatives were sometimes exhibited in their own right, only showing positive prints was the norm.

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-1894)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation view)
1852-1854
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau (installation view)
1852
Albumen print from a collodion glass negative
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Fenton was one of the most versatile and technically brilliant photographers of the 19th century. He excelled at many subjects, including war photography, portraiture, architecture and landscape. He also made a series of lush still lives. Here, grapes, plums and peaches are rendered in exquisite detail, and the silver cup on the right reflects a camera tripod.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view detail)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Still Life with Fruit and Decanter' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Still Life with Fruit and Decanter
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-1875)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rejlander probably intended this photograph to be part of a larger composition telling the biblical story of Salome, in which the severed head of John the Baptist was presented to her on a plate. Rejlander never made the full picture, however, and instead produced multiple prints of the head alone.

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-1875)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Frith’s photographs were popular and circulated widely, both because of their architectural interest and because they often featured sites mentioned in the Bible. Photographs of places described in biblical stories brought a new level of realism to a Christian Victorian audience, previously only available through the interpretations of a painter or illustrator.

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith' 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean (installation view)
1856-1859
Albumen Print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean
1856-1859
Albumen Print
Art Institute of Chicago
Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-1857
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-1857
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre
1856-1857
Albumen print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-1859
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-1859
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Lucia' 1864-65

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Lucia (installation view)
1864-1865
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' and 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) and Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lewis Carroll is best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but he was also an accomplished amateur photographer. Approximately half of his photographs are portraits of children, sometimes wearing foreign costumes or acting out scenes. Here, Alexandra ‘Xie’ Kitchen, his most frequent child sitter, poses in Chinese dress on a stack of tea chests.

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The South Kensington museum (now the V&A) was the only museum to collect and exhibit Julia Margaret Cameron’s during her lifetime. This is one of several studies she made of Alice Liddell, who as a child had modelled for the author and photographer Lewis Carroll and inspired his novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Cameron, Carroll and Liddell moved in overlapping artistic and intellectual circles. Here, surrounded by foliage, a grown-up Alice poses as the Roman goddess of orchards and gardens.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan