“Bill Brandt…is to photography what a sculptor is to a block of marble,” wrote Lawrence Durrell. “His pictures read into things, try to get at the hidden presence which dwells in the inanimate object. Whether his subject is live or not—whether woman or child or human hand or stone—he detaches it from its context by some small twist of perception and lodges it securely in the world of Platonic forms.”
Edward Gorey’s work tends to combine whimsically grim storylines with dour yet dancerly protagonists. Whether they are Edwardian ladies, fur-coated gentlemen, ill-fated children, or unusual animals, his characters are almost always on some kind of journey. His stories often unfold in wallpapered rooms, on barren estates, or among statues, beast-shaped topiaries, and urns. “Few seem to return from the borders to which I’ve sent them,” he wrote.
A new exhibition of street photography, “Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940–1959,” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, brings together work by photographers ranging from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans to Helen Levitt, W. Eugene Smith, and Weegee; it also includes paintings by Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Richard Pousette-Dart—all of whom were making images during and immediately after World War II. “Abstract Expressionism, film noir, Beat poetry, and the New Journalism are all widely recognized aftershocks of World War II,” writes Lisa Hostetler in the catalog of the exhibition. “It is time to add the ‘psychological gesture in photography’ to the list.” These photographs, with their emphasis on mood and atmosphere, and their exploration of blurred motion, shadows, and solitary figures, are very different from images made before the war.
In 1999, the German photographer Olaf Otto Becker took a picture of a glacier in Iceland for his first book, Under the Nordic Light. When he returned to photograph the same glacier three years later, it was gone.