BILL BRANDT LIVED most of his life in exile, but never regarded this as a tragedy: on the contrary, it was something he neither discussed nor acknowledged. Other victims of the twentieth-century diaspora might feel a sense of loss, nostalgia or self-division; Brandt simply and ruthlessly sought to eliminate all traces of his German birth and upbringing. Instead he carefully constructed himself a new persona: an English gentleman of the urbane upper-middle class, betrayed only by a slight but unmistakable accent. To some extent, it was a game; as Paul Delany puts it in this superb new biography, 'he was a man who loved secrets and needed them.'
His photography reflects both this façade and the detachment behind it. His images seem richly encoded in meaning, but never make themselves clear. There is always an element of mystery about Brandt's com- positions - and often an element of theatricality too. The results are less anthropological or sociological records