The legacy of Bill Brandt, one of the major figures of twentieth century photography, is split between a humanist documentary approach and an artistic conception of the real. As the title of the retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art suggests, a large part of Brandt’s black-and-white photographs are set in a mysterious, high-contrast environment, where men, objects and landscapes appear between shadow and light. These can be read as a manifesto for the pursuit of curiosity, supported by his various remarks on the nature of photography, which he considered to be a means of seeing the world with fresh eyes, an experience that should lead to, “a sense of wonder,” as he wrote in 1948.
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