A Couple More Favourite Photographers

Part Three

From time to time I would like to present some photographers whose work I really enjoy and find inspirational.

These brief profiles are not presented in any particular order or any kind of grouping. They are really just random tributes to artists I admire. I have included these two particular artists together though as they share an interesting common influence.

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott

USA, 1898 - 1991

Bernice Abbott was born in Ohio but moved to New York in 1918 to study sculpture. In 1921 she moved to Europe to further her studies, spending two years in Paris and Berlin. During her time in Paris she changed the spelling of her name to Berenice, the French version of Bernice.

Abbott was introduced to photography when she was hired by Man Ray to become a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in 1923. Apparently Ray was looking for an assistant, with no prior photography experience, that he could train from scratch. Ray became a strong supporter of Abbott's work and allowed her to use his studio for her own photography. Eventually, in 1927, Abbott opened a second studio on the rue Servandoni. Her notable early works were mainly portraits of artists and well known literary figures.

In 1929 she closed the portrait studio and returned to New York to capture images of the city in the style of her hero, Eugene Atget.

Her best known work is a study of New York called Changing New York, shot between 1936 and 1938 on a large format, Century Universal 8"x10" camera. Documentary maker, Ralph Steiner, wrote that her work was "the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made".

After completing the New York project, Abbott traveled the USA photographing small towns and industrial architecture. Her last photography book, A Portrait of Maine, was released in 1968.

I couldn't find a website dedicated to her specifically but, please click here to view some of her work on Google Images.

Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt

Britain, 1904 - 1983

Brandt was born in Hamburg, Germany to a British father and German mother. Later, Brandt would renounce his German citizenry and would claim to have been born in South London.

In 1929 he moved to Paris and, like Berenice Abbott, became an assistant to the surrealist photographer, Man Ray. In 1931 he returned to London to work as a documentary photographer, producing work for well known magazines.

One of the interesting things about Brandt is that he changed styles several times throughout his career. Beginning in photojournalism, he moved through stages shooting architecture, landscape, abstracts, portraits, and nudes at various times. Brandt mainly used Rolleiflex and Hasselblad roll film cameras but, surprisingly, switched to an old brass and mahogany large format camera with a wide angle lens to shoot nudes.

He was considered to be an acclaimed photographer in just about any genre in which he chose to work. Most likely because be brought his own distinctive and unique style to his photographs, regardless of the subject matter. His use of distortion, perspective, and high contrast printing in his compositions provides an unmistakable look to his photography.

I find myself in awe of his ability to even imagine, let alone pre-visualise, some of his more creative images.

Visit the Bill Brandt Archive website, or view his work on Google images.

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