Press Releases

Bill Brandt: Shadows and Substance at the Akron Art Museum

For Release: April 2008

Akron, OH, April 28, 2008 – A retrospective of works by England’s greatest twentieth-century photographer Bill Brandt opens May 31 at the Akron Art Museum. Bill Brandt: Shadows and Substance presents 58 photographs from throughout the artist’s career. This collection of vintage prints provides a rare opportunity to see the work as the artist originally conceived it.

Notable for his use of strong contrasts and densely printed images, Brandt began his career as a photojournalist and eventually became known as a poet of light and shadow. Decade by decade, Brandt (1904-1983) moved toward ever more radical dualities of black and white, not just in his new photographs but also in his printing of older images, resulting in his own reinterpretation of his earlier work.

Brandt started his career in Paris in 1929, spending several years as an apprentice to the American surrealist artist Man Ray. Moving to London, Brandt spent the next decade working as a photojournalist, producing staged “documentary” images of the seamy side of the city’s nightlife. These dramatic images reflected Brandt’s belief that emotional truth took precedence over factual information.

Soon after the onset of the Great Depression, Brandt decided to study the extreme social contrast of the British class system. He started with glimpses of life “upstairs” and “downstairs” in the homes of England’s rich. Brandt also captured images of the massive unemployment and deep poverty in England’s industrialized north. During World War II, Brandt’s images of a blacked-out London became important national symbols of British endurance.

Brandt’s subject matter changed radically over the decades. After World War II, the former photojournalist began to explore the subjective, expressive side of photography, interpreting the world as an increasingly surreal place. Distortion, atmosphere and mood imbued his nudes and English landscapes with an eerie, emotional beauty. When Brandt died in 1983, he had changed not just British photography but also influenced several generations of photographers around the world.

Bill Brandt: Shadows and Substance is on view May 31-August 24, 2008 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery and the Judith Bear Isroff Gallery at the Akron Art Museum.

This exhibition is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions.

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