An Iconic Image of Post-War Britain

 

British press photographer Bert Hardy was born into a working class family in Blackfriars, London, on 19 May 1913. The eldest son in a family with seven children, Hardy left school at the young age of 14 to work in a chemist’s shop which also processed photographs. Hardy’s first break came when he managed to snap King George V and Queen Mary as they passed through his borough in a carriage. The young photographer was able to sell 200 small prints of his shot, and use the success to buy his first Leica with which he went on to freelance for The Bicycle magazine.

In 1941 Hardy joined the increasingly respected Picture Post, becoming the magazine’s chief photographer after just a few months. He later served as a military photographer from 1942-46, taking part in the 1944 D-Day landings and covering the liberations of Paris.

After returning from the war, Hardy began to receive substantial critical acclaim for his photographs. Three of his pictures were selected to be in Edward Steichen’s famous Family of Man exhibition. After writing an article for an amateur photography magazine claiming that photographers did not need expensive equipment to create good photographs, Hardy staged a carefully posed photograph of two women sat on the railings of Blackpool’s promenade using a Kodak Box Brownie in 1951. This photograph has since gone on to become an iconic image of post-war Britain.

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