Born in Hamburg, Germany, son of a British father and German mother, Brandt grew up during World War I, during which his father, who had lived in Germany since the age of five, was interned for six months by the Germans as a British citizen. Brandt later disowned his German heritage and would claim he was born in South London. Shortly after the war, he contracted tuberculosis and spent much of his youth in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. He traveled to Vienna to undertake a course of treatment for tuberculosis by psychoanalysis. He was, in any case, pronounced cured and was taken under the wing of socialite Eugenie Schwarzwald. When Ezra Pound visited the Schwarzwald residence, Brandt made his portrait. In appreciation, Pound allegedly offered Brandt an introduction to Man Ray, in whose Paris studio Brandt would assist in 1930.
In 1933 Brandt moved to London and began documenting all levels of British society. This kind of documentary was uncommon at that time. Brandt published two books showcasing this work, The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938). He was a regular contributor to magazines such as Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper's Bazaar. He documented the Underground bomb shelters of London during The Blitz in 1940, commissioned by the Ministry of Information. During World War II, Brandt focused every kind of subject - as can be seen in his "Camera in London" (1948) but excelled in portraiture and landscape. To mark the arrival of peace in 1945 he began a celebrated series of nudes. His major books from the post-war period are Literary Britain (1951), and Perspective of Nudes (1961), followed by a compilation of the best of all areas of his work, Shadow of Light (1966). Brandt became Britain's most influential and internationally admired photographer of the 20th century. Many of his works have important social commentary but also poetic resonance. His landscapes and nudes are dynamic, intense and powerful, often using wide-angle lenses and distortion. Brandt died in London in 1983.
Bill Brandt was one of the acknowledged masters of 20th century photography. Taken as a whole, his work constitutes one of the most varied and vivid social documents of Great Britain. Brandt was largely self-taught in photography and worked as a student-assistant to Man-Ray in Paris from 1929 to 1930. This exposure would determine the surrealist undercurrent and tension of many of Brandt’s images. Brandt’s work was shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the US during his career, including two one-person exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948 and 1969. There are over a dozen published books of his work from the 1930s through the 1980s. Brandt’s work was extensively collected by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Source: The Halsted Gallery