Great Britain 1910 – 2005
No title (Thanksgiving for the harvest)
Collection Title: the Mass Observations series
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
Humphrey Spender was one of the most important British documentary photographers of the interwar years. He worked on the Mass Observation project set up in 1937. The brainchild of anthropologist Tom Harrisson, poet Charles Madge and filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, MO brought together poets, painters, social scientists, documentary filmmakers, photographers and an army of volunteers to record ordinary life, with the aim of establishing a new social democracy. Spender used a concealed camera to capture people on the street, in pubs, in cafes and on buses. Mostly a self-taught photographer, Spencer studied architecture in Germany in the 1920s; this exposed him to the New Objectivity movement in photography and the latest trends in progressive thinking. He set up a commercial studio in London in the 1930s and worked as a staff photographer for the Daily Mirror newspaper and Picture Post magazine.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra