Someone commented on the OCA student group on Flickr some time ago that they often get side-tracked when researching and sometimes it’s a day later that they realise how much of a tangent they took. The same happens to me regularly – but the outcomes are often very welcome!
One such tangent a year or so back ended with me seriously researching the work of Bill Brandt for the first time. I had purchased a copy of “Bill Brandt Photographs: 1928-1983” sometime earlier and for the first time sat down and read that in full. Before I knew it I’d ordered two more books (must cancel my amazon account – too easy to buy books) and spent several hours reading articles from the internet and watching videos on You Tube including the BBC’s Master Photographers programme broadcast in 1983, the year that he died.
I then became interested in the way his work was actually presented particularly in Lilliput magazine and as well as looking at examples on the internet I found myself on eBay where I purchased a few Lilliput collections in book format so I could see them for myself in-situ and in context. Looking at one of these again this morning I was taken by how often images were presented as contrasting or complementary pairs which is something that Brandt himself also did at times.
Many interesting facts were elicited and bit my bit I was able to build up a picture of the man to complement the photographs I was looking at. A small item on the BBC news website for example included a quote from David Hockney: “Brandt’s pictures survive and enter the memory because they were constructed by an artist.” Brandt was not averse to creating the right scene, often getting friends to pose for him and for him the initial exposure was only part of the story. The print itself was extremely important in realising Brandt’s artistic vision and he routinely made physical alterations to prints to achieve the desired effect.
I came away from all this extra-curricular research with a real appreciation for Brandt’s work and also the distinct impression that as Hockney says he was more than a photographer, he was an artist. His photographs seem to me to sit between social documentary and pictorial representations. Images such as The Snicket (yes, I’m back to that photograph) can be read as a comment on the social conditions of 1937 Halifax, an allegory for the uphill struggle of the poor or as a pictorial representation of an otherwise mundane scene.
Why am I posting this so long after the first tangental diversion into Brandt’s world? Well, I’ve gone off-tangent again this morning revisiting Brandt’s work after spotting a chance reference to him on YouTube whilst looking for GoPro reviews!
To be honest I’m quite happy with that. He is a photographer whose work I really enjoy and I never tire of revisiting his work. It doesn’t help with the backlog of images to process on my computer though, which is worse than usual because of my new-found interest in the Fuji-X series! At this rate my backlog of images will still be unprocessed in the year 2525 (to reference Zager and Evans … oh dear! I sense another Google-tangent into 1970’s music coming up!).
All images © Dave Whenham