Bill Brandt, the greatest of British photographers who visually defined the English identity in the mid-twentieth century, was an enigma. A shy and complex man, his life (prior to his arrival in England and the publication of his first book The English at Home in 1936) placed him at the centre of European artistic currents which were to shape his subsequent vision and equip him with the means to portray 'Englishness' unlike any photographer before him, and perhaps unlike any who have followedAfter his death in 1983, Brandt left a complicated trail behind him. In this first critical biography of Brandt, Paul Delany has ambitiously traced his early background - from a merchant's family in Hamburg and a period in a Davos TB sanatorium to an apprenticeship in a photographic studio in Vienna in the Twenties, where he met and photographed Ezra Pound and also underwent psychoanalysis; from his travels in Spain in the Thirties to his brief period in the Paris studio of Man Ray - and revealed how biographical facts and the fantasies that accompanied them deeply affected Brandt's work. Richly illustrated with duotone reproductions of his masterpieces and a number of unpublished private
Paul Delany was born in South London and his early visual memories are of England in the years when Bill Brandt was working for Picture Post. He has written biographies of D. H. Lawrence in the First World War, and of Rupert Brooke and the 'neo-pagan' circle. In 2003 he retired as Chair of the Department of English at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. He lives in Vancouver.