Texts by Peter James & Richard Sadler
Despite Bill Brandt’s fame and considerable influence on the development of modern photography, the photographs in this book are a little known body of work.
The work was carried out between 1939 and 1943 when Brandt worked on a commercial assignment for the Bournville Village Trust. The prints and negatives have been with BVT for some 60 years and the work has never been previously published.
The photographs illustrate the living conditions in a range of housing types. For example, the back-to- back slums built in the nineteenth century through to modern municipal housing built in the 1930s. The majority of the photographs were taken in Birmingham but also some in London where he looked at ‘old residential’ properties near to his own home in Camden Hill. London was undoubtedly one of Brandt’s favourite subjects and these photographs, taken around 1943, are amongst a much larger body of work Brandt shot in the capital city during the war-years.
The Bournville Village Trust was set up by George Cadbury in 1900 to manage the Bournville Estate, the model housing development which he created near his factory on the outskirts of Birmingham. The objects of the trust included: “the amelioration of the conditions of the working class population of Birmingham and elsewhere in Great Britain”. Many books and articles published around this time sought to address the issue of the living conditions of the working classes and photography played a key role.
The images form distinct picture stories where direct contrasts are made between slum and municipal housing. Brandt also uses light very carefully within these images to emphasise these contrasts. A number of the stories follow a distinct narrative sequence – through the idea of ‘a day in the life’ – a device frequently used in the influential magazine, Picture Post, for which Brandt often worked.
112 pages, 83 photographs
240mm x 170mm
Published in association with Birmingham Library Services and with the support of The Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) in the School of Public Policy at the University of Birmingham