Surfaces and Strategies – Considering Other Photographers – Brandt
“Instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed.”
– Bill Brandt (billbrandt.com, 2017)
Figure 1: Bill Brandt. Nude. 1960
Bill Brandt’s iconic photographs of nudes, or more accurately, the human form, have been fascinated me since I first came across them as a teenager. Some were shot in domestic interiors where the presence of a naked form is provocative (but oddly never really erotic.) Some are taken on the rocky beaches of East Sussex, where the human form contrasts against the landscape. Brandt created a unique vision of the world and the human form.
The images have delighted the viewer with his view of the human form from a different perspective. His use of wide-angle lenses and creative lighting presented the human form as an exciting aesthetic experience. The images remind me of the sculptures of Jean Arp, whose work, as a Dadaist, was in response to his belief that humanity was connected to nature and that the natural world was governed by both chaos and logic.
“I wanted to find another order, another value for man in nature. He should no longer be the measure of all things, nor should everything be compared with him, but, on the contrary, all things, and man as well, should be like nature, without measure.”
– Jean Arp (IdeelArt, 2017)
Figure 2: Jean Arp. Coryphee. 1961
Figure 3: Jean Arp. Human Concretions. circa 1935
Figure 4: Bill Brandt. Nude, East Sussex Coast. 1953
Figure 5: Bill Brandt. Nude, East Sussex Coast. 1958
Figure 6: Bill Brandt. Nude, Taxo d_Aval, France. 1957
Brandt experimented with his photography. He wanted to “get rid of the accepted image and to view his subjects without the cellophane-wrapping of conventional sight” (Le Plac’Art Photo, 2017). Over time his work became increasingly abstract. His images of toes and fingers became one with the rocks and cliffs in his images.
Brandt’s abstract images of the human form are unique. Today, we are bombarded with images of the human body. But the majority of images we see are obsessed with body weight and the tone of the muscles, whether skinny or obese (horrid words as they can offend many). Brandt took a different approach to his images and this is what inspired me to start my body part work. I think that we are all different, beautiful and unique and in my opinion, Brandt portrayed that in his photographs.
I like that his images aren’t just of stomachs and arms, but include images of fingers, legs and other parts. This is what I have aimed to capture in my work.
Brandt’s images look sophisticated due to his choice to use monochrome tones. This helps express the deeper meaning that everyone is beautiful and that all body parts of a human are different but people should respect that.
Responding to Brandt’s work has helped me to show that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way. If someone has a big chest and neck they should not be defined and judged by these features, and if another’s bones are very visible, they are still beautiful.
Brandt, Bill: A Statement. [online] Bill Brandt Archive. Available at: http://www.billbrandt.com/bill-brandt-a-statement/ [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].
IdeelArt. (2017). Jean Arp and the Abstraction Inspired by Nature – IdeelArt. [online] Available at: http://www.ideelart.com/module/csblog/post/222-1-jean-arp.html [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].
Le Plac’Art Photo. (2017). Bill Brandt, Perspective of nudes, The Bodley head, 1961 | Bookshop Le Plac’Art Photo. [online] Available at: http://www.placartphoto.com/book/1401/perspective_of_nudes-bill_brandt [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].
Figures 1: Michael Hoppen Gallery. (2017). Bill Brandt. [online] Available at: https://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artists/45-bill-brandt/overview/#/artworks/9721 [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].
Figures 2 and 3: IdeelArt. (2017). Jean Arp and the Abstraction Inspired by Nature – IdeelArt. [online] Available at: http://www.ideelart.com/module/csblog/post/222-1-jean-arp.html [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].
Figures 4 – 6: Michael Hoppen Gallery. (2017). Bill Brandt. [online] Available at: https://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artists/45-bill-brandt/overview/#/artworks/9721 [Accessed 08 Aug. 2017].