Bill Brandt Photography at MoMa; Shadow and Light exhibition

Bill Brandt's image of a coal miner, covered in black soot, and his wife eating a meal at a table is featured at the MoMa's Shadow and Light exhibition

England's Bill Brandt is certainly one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, a journalist and artist whose brilliant compositions, combined with his love of everyday subject matter, helped redefine the medium and spark the modernist movement. Which is laudable and important and all that, but more to the point, Brandt's photographs–of London during the Blitz, of Northern England factory towns in the 1930s, of nudes on a pebbly beach, rendered nearly surreal by his POV–are instantly engaging, and utterly unforgettable. 

Man at the MoMa admiring Bill Brandt's famous "eyes" collection, featured at the Shadow and Light exhibition.

Brandt's Photograph Collections at MoMa

The Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light exhibition just opened at the Museum of Modern Art, and it is a wonderfully rich, thoroughly entertaining retrospective of his long and ever-evolving career. The gallery is structured chronologically from the 1930s through to the early 1960s, the Brandt MoMA show offers nearly 160 vintage prints and other materials (mostly magazine layouts; Brandt often shot on commission), spread out through three of the museum's third floor photographic galleries. Taken together, the works show Brandt's remarkable range and his constant experimentation with technique, especially, as the exhibition's title indicates, in his usage of contrast, in shadow and light. 

Bill Brandt's dark, black and white image of Londoners camping out in the underground during the Blitz in London.

Admiring Bill Brandt's Gallery of Photography

Everything is fantastic here. We loved revisiting Brandt's earliest work, those transportive shots of gritty industrial cities like Halifax, and of the filthy, exhausted-looking coal miners of Northumbria. We loved his Second World War photos, many of which are familiar–Londoners camping out in the underground during the Blitz; children playing in the bombed-out city streets–but haven't lost any of their immediacy, or power. We loved his portraits of the great English artists, writers, and poets, like Dylan Thomas and Henry Moore; and his famous series of famous "eyes" (of, for example, Jean Dubuffet and George Braque), and his distorted, sculptural nudes. As we said: all of it, fantastic.  

Woman at the MoMa admiring bill Brandt's collection of distorted, sculptural nudes images featured at the Shadow and Light exhibition in NYC

Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light at MoMA

The Bill Brandt MoMA exhibition will be on display through August 12. The Museum of Modern Art is located on 53rd Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday until 8:00 p.m., when admission is free after 4:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For lots more information about everything, visit the MoMA's website!

Bill Brandt's image of a man's big toe as he sits on the beach.

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