Untitled Document

Homes Fit For Heroes - Photographs by Bill Brandt - Curated by Peter James & Richard Salder

Date: 12 September – 7 October 2005


Homes Fit For Heroes Photographs by Bill Brandt 1939 – 1943

Curated by Peter James & Richard Salder in association with Birmingham Libraries

Despite Bill Brandt’s fame and considerable influence on the development of modern photography, the photographs in this exhibition are a little known body of work. The work was carried out between 1939 and 1943 when Brandt worked on a commercial assignment for the Bournville Village Trust. The prints and negatives have been with BVT for some 60 years and the work has never been previously published.

The photographs illustrate the living conditions in a range of housing types. For example, the back-to-back slums built in the nineteenth century through to modern municipal housing built in the 1930s. The majority of photographs on show in the exhibition were taken in Birmingham but some were also taken in London, where he looked at ‘old residential’ properties near to his own home in Camden Hill. London was undoubtedly one of Brandt’s favourite subjects, and these photographs, taken around 1943, are part of a much larger body of work Brandt shot in the capital city during the war years.

Bill Brandt (1904-1983) had a long and productive life as a photographer. As an assistant to Man Ray, he was associated with the Surrealist Movement. Following his move to Britain he became a leading exponent of reportage documentary photography which was shown in popular magazines such as Picture Post, Lilliput, and Harper’s Bazaar rather than the gallery. The exhibition ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ shows work from this period.

The Arts Institute at Bournemouth is grateful to Richard Sadler and Peter James for the curation of this exhibition, and to Birmingham Library Service for their loan. Richard Sadler, who is himself a distinguished photographer, was a friend of Bill Brandt and of his wife, Noya. Richard made the series of prints from the original Brandt negatives for the Birmingham Library where they form part of the photographic archive. These are also published in the book ‘Homes Fit for Heroes', jointly authored by Peter James and Richard Sadler.

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