I am particularly interested in photography of the late 1920’s & 1930’s, an era that held the Great Depression , World War 2 and also the glamorous Art Deco movement.
We rely on writers, painters and Photographers for their evidential records to allow many of us to build up an image of the what these times where like. For example when I think of the social landscape of the 1930’s, I think Art deco, glamorous buildings, elegant clothes and cars etc., but with this glamour brings the darker side of the social realm, the gangster, the criminal and the detective, this is the social landscape I want to delve more into.
It has become apparent to me through the researching process of looking into the social aspects of the 1930’s, the photographer became the investigator/ detective, taking shots of the hidden elements of society that a city would prefer to hide from its counterparts.
‘I was eager to penetrate this other world.’
‘this fringe world, the secret sinister world of mobsters, outcasts, toughs, pimps, whores, addicts, inverts.’
Bill Brandt, adopted as a British photographer, famous for ‘The English Home’ (1936) portrayed the upper class of the South and the working industrial class of the North.
Brandt later brought out ‘A Night in London’ (1938). This document of images portrays a more darker and mysterious Brandt. Examples of these are;
‘Footsteps coming Nearer’ (1936),
‘Street Scene’ (1936)
‘ Alley off East India Dock Road’ (1937)
Influenced by Brassaï , Brandt uses the man as a haunting figure approaching the woman, whereby in Brassaï’s case the men in the image do not seem to have that looming presence that Brandt represents in his.
Another Photographer of this time was Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee. Like Brassaï and Brandt, Weegee was a nocturnal freelance photographer based in New York City. His main attention was following drama, i.e . the latest police chase or ambulance query. He made sure he was first on the scene to grab a photograph for the next breaking news story, selling his shots to newspapers. He took images ranging from a social occasion at the opera, to tenement buildings on fire to the latest mob member being shot. Weegee brought out a documentary book of his work, Nakend City (1945).
The Critic, 1943
The Tenement Fire
Park Avenue 1938
Body of Dominic Didato, Elizabeth Street 1936
Weegee’s shots are more raw/ violent, especially where a murder was concerned.
I hope to explore deeper into Brassaï, Brandt and Weegee’s technique of photography. Each focusing on different lighting, Brassaï's over exposure of the street light, to Brandt's calm moonlight and Weegee's flash. I hope to try and create something of a similar effect to see how difficult it may be to create the perfect picture that captures the right amount of shadow and light through natural light and how the manipulation of Artificial light can be advantageous to a shot.