Bill Brandt, one of the most prolific 20th-century photographers, is beautifully represented by this volume, which contains nearly 400 of his black-and-white photographs. These range from his famous, starkly disturbing portraits of the denizens of either end of the social ladder to his late, poetic landscapes and cool, studied, abstract nudes. In between are several series that contain singular images of great familiarity, such as his portrait of painter Francis Bacon in an eerie, lamp-lit landscape, or the one of two housemaids in starched white caps standing at attention behind an upper-crust dining-room table. Brandt's passionate interest in the shocking juxtaposition of the very rich and the very poor brought him a wide audience as well as accusations of being a Socialist propagandist. During the Great Depression, Brandt traveled to the north of England and made some of the most devastating pictures of his career, exposing the extreme poverty--and dignity--of the area's coal miners.
Author Bill Jay has divided this book into eight sections: A European Apprentice, Observing the English, Courting the Surreal, Journeys North, The Dark City (Brandt made haunting pictures of wartime London during the blackouts), A Return to Poetry, Portraying the Artist, and the Perfection of Form. Jay's introduction is warm and perceptive--and laced with juicy anecdotes. Nigel Warburton, another Brandt expert, contributes an illustrated time-line of Brandt's many professional assignments, under the rubric "The Career." This carefully edited book demonstrates why Brandt has always enjoyed high stature among artists, for it is packed with individual masterpieces. But even if it were not, it would be powerful simply for the breadth of Brandt's accomplishments. --Peggy Moorman