Bill Brandt (1904-83) is one of the most respected British photographers of the past century. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he produced unforgettable images in a range of genres: social documentary, landscapes, portraits and nudes. Brandt’s influence on other photographers remains immense; ask any contemporary photographer, from David Bailey to Martin Parr, who they respect, and Bill Brandt’s name is likely to come up. His late printing style, with its stark black and white contrasts, is instantly recognizable. But Brandt’s greatest achievement is to have established himself as a photographic artist: a visual poet.
Perhaps his greatest contribution to photography were his female nudes, which he worked on from the early 1930s to the 1980s. These extraordinary images are particularly distinguished by the use of a wide-angle lens in close-up, causing the body to appear distorted, and in other cases by a bold black and white tonal range. In many cases the body is so transformed as to become scarcely recognizable. Particularly in the later nudes, skin tones are manipulated by the printing style to produce abstract shapes, where flesh and stone are barely distinguishable.
Bill Brandt’s nudes were published twice during his lifetime, first in Perspective of Nudes (1961) and again in Bill Brandt: Nudes 1945-1980 (1980). Now the oeuvre is brought together here within a single volume. Each of the sections is introduced with a succinct and revealing essay by Mark Haworth-Booth, and Nigel Warburton contributes a chronology.