Humphrey SPENDER

Great Britain 1910 – 2005

Opening Time c1937-38 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Primary Insc: signed verso l.l. pencil 'Spender...' dated verso c.v. pencil 'WEDS 23rd' (no year) titled verso c. pencil 'Opening time'
Dimensions: image 16.8 h x 24.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1988
Accession No: NGA 88.1461
  • Humphrey Spender was a photographer on Tom Harrison's Mass Observation project in London and Blackpool in 1937–39, which established him as one of the important players in British documentary photography of the interwar years. Mass Observation brought together poets, painters, social scientists and documentary filmmakers and photographers, to record ordinary life, with the aim of establishing a new social democracy.

    Spender used a concealed camera to capture people in the street, in pubs, in cafes and on buses. He was mostly self-taught in photography though study in Germany in the 1920s had exposed him to the New Objectivity movement and the latest trends in progressive thinking. He had set up a portrait and commercial studio in London in the 1930s and worked as a staff photographer for the Daily Mirror newspaper and Picture Post magazine. He served as a War Office Official Photographer in the Second World War but gradually moved away from photography to focus on painting and textile design.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra