Bill Brandt

I had a conversation during the week about Bill Brandt, who is to be the subject of an exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art.   I had thought, quite wrongly, that he had contributed photographs to Robert Byron’s Shell Guide to Wiltshire, with its surreal collage cover done by Lord Berners.   What he did do was provide photographs for the National Buildings Record, established by Walter Godfrey in 1940 ‘to meet the dangers of war then threatening many buildings of national importance’ and with John Summerson, who had a good eye for architectural photography, as its Deputy Director.   Brandt (his voice ‘as loud as a moth’) took unexpectedly straight documentary photographs for the NBR of the tombs in Canterbury Cathedral, as well as buildings, streets and churches in Chichester, Canterbury and Rochester.   At the same time, he took much more atmospheric photographs of ancient monuments towards the end of the war, including Stonehenge and Avebury, published first in Lilliput and in 1951 in his book on Literary Britain.

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