Humanist Landscapes: Humphrey Spender’s Photo-Documents, 1932–1942

Wednesday, September 10, 1997
Sunday, November 9, 1997

In the decade from 1932 to 1942, Humphrey Spender (1910–2005) produced a body of powerful and poignant photographs that played a key role in the development of British documentary photojournalism. Working for the new illustrated weekly magazine Picture Post and Mass Observation, a project to survey British society, he created photographs that embody with lucidity, detail, and breadth an entire complex of social relationship in Depression and wartime Britain.

This was the first exhibition in the US devoted to Spender’s work, and it included approximately seventy of his photographs, as well as copies of the magazines in which his photo-stories appeared. The inclusion of drawings, prints, and paintings by contemporaries and colleagues such as Humphrey Jennings, William Coldstream, and Graham Bell situated Spender’s photography within the broader context of British art and the documentary movement in the thirties.

This exhibition was organized and the catalogue written by Deborah Frizzel, an independent curator who worked closely with Spender himself. An extensive program of special events accompanied the exhibition.

Entrance Court, Yale Center for British Art, photograph by Richard Caspole