Bill Brandt - advice to young photographers

by Bill Brandt

“When young photographers come to show me their work, they often tell me proudly that they follow all the fashionable rules. They never use electric lamps or flashlight; they never crop a picture in the darkroom but print from an untrimmed negative; they snap a model while walking about the room. I am not interested in rules or conventions. Photography is not a sport. If I think a picture will look better brilliantly lit I use lights or even flash. It is the result that counts no matter how it was achieved.

I find darkroom work most important as I can finish the composition of a picture only under the enlarger. I do not understand why this is supposed to interfere with the truth. Photographers should follow their own judgment and not the fads and distastes of others. Photography is still a very new medium and everything is allowed and everything should be tried. And there are certainly no rules about the printing of a picture. Before 1955 I liked my prints dark and muddy. Now I prefer the very contrasting black and white effect. It looks crisper, more dramatic and very different from colour photographs.

It is essential for the photographer to know the effect of his lenses. The lens is his eye and it makes or ruins his pictures. A feeling for composition is a great asset. I think that it is very much a matter of instinct. It can perhaps be developed but I doubt it can be learned. To achieve his best work the young photographer must discover what really excites him visually. He must discover his own world.”

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