Bill Brandt, born in Hamburg to German parents of Russian descent, contracted tuberculosis at a young age; therefore at the age of sixteen, he was moved to a sanitarium in Switzerland in order to recover. At the age of 22, he followed his brother to Vienna, where he decided upon photography as his profession, arranging work in the portrait studio of Greta Kolliner. Brandt's first breakthrough came in 1928, where a chance meeting with famous poet Ezra Pound led to Brandt taking his portrait. The photograph was greatly admired by Pound, who then immediately introduced Brandt to the surrealist painter and photographer, Man Ray.
After three months in Man Ray's studio, the 1930s saw Bill Brandt move to London and concentrate on photographing life in Britain for the rest of the decade. When the war began, Brandt (surprisingly so due to his German nationality) was asked by the War Office to photograph the blackout and record the Blitz, where Londoners sheltered from German air raids. A selection of these photographs are currently displayed in the Tate Britain. Post-war, Brandt developed a love for landscapes, but towards the fifties became increasingly preoccupied with surrealism and the nude. A series of the surreal fusion of landscape and nude, taken on the beaches of Normandy and Sussex, are available in the gallery. Brandt died in 1983 as the result of a short illness.
Bill Brandt's photography was first published in the Paris Magazine in 1930. On his return to Britain during the Depression, the Daily Chronicle featured his photographs, alongside the publishing of two books: The English at Home (1936) and a Night in London (1938). During the second world war Brandt became one of the world's leading photojournalists, publishing in 1948 'The Camera in London.' In 1961 after his move to surrealism and nudes, his book "Perspectives of Nudes" was published in London and New York. During his lifetime he exhibited at the Museum of Modern art in New York and the Hayward Gallery in London.