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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Dr Ian Walker [University of Wales]: Bill Brandt Underground: Tracing the Shelter Photographs in the Archive

16th October 2008, 17:30, A56, Elvet Riverside I

Of all the bodies of work by major figures in modernist photography, the archive of Bill Brandt remains one of the most elusive, much as it was when Brandt himself controlled it. But there were a few projects where Brandt was working to commission and his work was deposited in a public archive. Of these, the most intriguing are the set of photographs that Brandt made between November 4 and 11 1940, in the shelters where Londoners went to escape from the Blitz. These are now in the Imperial War Museum, but the prints on file there look very different from the images Brandt himself produced for his various publications. Moreover the siting of these 41 images by Brandt in among the other 38,102 photos from the Home Front also changes one's understanding of them. The questions raised here about authorship and authenticity are profound, particularly if one is able to follow the trail down into the basement of the Archive, where the original negatives are stored - these frail slivers of film which were exposed to the underground light almost 68 years ago.

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