The Tate Britain is opening a new free exhibition dedicated to the famous British photographer Bill Brandt (1904-1983). Forty-four original photographs from throughout his career are displayed alongside the magazines and photo books in which these images were most often seen. Entitled Bill Brandt: Inside the Mirror, this is the Tate’s first Brandt exhibition. He reveals the secrets of his art and the fascinating ways in which he staged and refined his photographs. Drawn from the collection of Tate, the exhibition includes many recent acquisitions reflecting Tate’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its photographic collections.
Although Brandt’s images may appear candid and spontaneous, he did not capture people oblivious
Bill Brandt first rose to prominence as a photojournalist, renowned in the 1930s for his observations of British life and later for his landscapes, portraits and nudes. But his images were always carefully crafted to “step into the mirror,” as he put it, employing formal experimentation and artistic intervention to evoke the surreal beauty he saw in daily life. This exhibition celebrates his theatrical staging of people and settings, his mastery of composition and abstraction, and his dialogues with the work of other artists.
Although Brandt’s images may appear candid and spontaneous, he did not capture people oblivious. He worked closely with those he photographed, directing and enlightening them to cast “the spell that charges the mundane with beauty.” He sometimes waited hours to capture effects at specific times of the day – as in Woman Swimming – and some of his most mysterious scenes were taken at night. Brandt developed his film and printed his photographs, giving him new opportunities to rebalance light and dark and alter composition by cropping and enlarging. He even used ink and pencil to alter the prints, for example introducing plumes of smoke over Hail, Hell & Halifax. Brandt’s series of nudes featured in the exhibition include some of his best known and most evocative works, further exploring his interest in altered perspectives, surreal effects and abstract compositions.
In addition to being an artist in his own right, Brandt has drawn inspiration from many other artists and art forms. The exhibition explores some of these conversations between his photographs and other images, from Gustave Doré’s London prints to Henry Moore’s air-raid shelter drawings to Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane. Brandt’s handmade photo of ‘A Dream’ – which is on display for the first time – reveals other influences, such as the surreal illustrations of John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland and the dramatic shadows of Expressionist cinema. Brandt also became famous for his portraits of artists, such as actor Glenda Jackson at his home in the early 1970s and a striking close-up of sculptor Louise Nevelson’s eye.
The exhibition at Tate Britain coincides with a group of photography exhibitions recently opened at Tate Modern. These include a room of photographs recently acquired by Martha Rosler, two photographic series by Laura Aguilar and Lyle Ashton Harris, and a selection of photo books documenting the war in Bosnia. There’s also an exhibition of images from Liz Johnson Artur’s Time don’t run here series, depicting the Black Lives Matter protests in London over the summer of 2020, alongside a new book about Artur from Tate. Publishing.
Bill Brandt Tate Britain Until 15 January 2023 Open daily 10.00am-6.00pm Free entry