Exercise: summary of David Campany on Bill Brandt

On Bill Bradts’ work by David Campany

Campany starts by telling us that the photographic document is a ‘shape shifter’ and mostly able to be re-contextualised and therefore allocated a different meaning.

The essay by Camapany looks closely at the particular body of work by Brandt ‘The English at home’. The aim of the photo project by Brandt appeared to be an investigation into class division and inequality. Wether this was his actual intention I do not know. Campany states that Brandt was more at home in the genre of surrealism as opposed to documentary. However, this body of work, although not appreciated at the time, did gain recognition in later years. Brandt himself was sceptical of the use of photography for showing social issues in their fullness. Perhaps for this reason he was more at home in the surrealist camp?

However, as Campany states:

“For him to photograph these minutiae was not simply to document but to estrange through a heightened sense of atmosphere, theatrical artifice and dreamlike sensibility” (Campany, no date) [1].

Brandt was of the wealthy classes and used some images from his own family settings as part of some of his picture essay work. Later down the line in Brandt’s career, he appeared to turn away from the documentary style work to focus more on expressionism. One has the sense that this was his more natural domain in image making.

Black and white photography

Black and white photography appears to of been the dominant form in the 40’s and hence is we are discussing the use of this type of work then this is because as yet colour photography was still not a fully expected presentation style.

To be taken seriously at a particular point in the history of photography one had to produce in black and white. Colour was the domain of commercial and advertising photography. The subject matter of documentary which had as its premise the objective documenting of the external world, gave credence and authority to black and white photos as ‘authorised documents’ (Wells, 1996) [2].


  1. Campany, D. The career of a photographer, the career of a photograph (date unknown) [online] https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/Campany_BillBrandt.pdf [accessed December, 2019]
  2. Wells, L. Photography a critical introduction (1996: 111-112) Routledge.



Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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