First published, with photography, by T Magazine on 11 May 2016
“He was a real cockney, Bert, and he loved his jellied eels,” Sue Davies, the founding director of London’s The Photographers’ Gallery, says of the British photographer Bert Hardy — with whom she used to have regular lunches until his death in 1995. This Friday, her gallery will open a new exhibition and sale of some of Hardy’s favorite original prints, which were saved as keepsakes in his private collection and have never before been displayed.
Born into a poor London family in 1913, Hardy became, by the 1940s, the chief photographer for Picture Post, a renowned British photojournalism magazine. He was a prolific photographer of conflict: he documented the crossing of the Rhine in the Second World War, air-raid shelters and bomb fires in London, and the Battle of Inchon during the Korean War. (Another set of pictures from that trip, depicting prisoners treated brutally by South Korean guards, was so politically controversial that picture editor Tom Hopkinson was fired for publishing them.)
Despite Hardy’s often grim subject matter, he brought a hopeful, even romantic, point of view to many of his photographs. In Gibraltar in 1954, he caught the enraptured expressions of sailors watching a Spanish dancer whirl above them. In London in 1953, he photographed lovers smiling at each other at the door of a Routemaster bus; in another, from 1949, a couple recline on a couch, the woman’s foot resting on a sunny windowsill. “He was a very warmhearted person,” says Davies. “He enjoyed doing it. You know, he wasn’t sitting there analyzing anything; it was just, ‘I am here to get the best picture,’ and he was very instinctive.”
“Bert Hardy: Personal Collection” is on view from May 13 – July 3 at The Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street, London, thephotographersgallery.org.uk.