Spender, (John) Humphrey 1910–2005
SPENDER, (John) Humphrey 1910–2005
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 19, 1910, in London, England; died of heart failure March 20, 2005, in Ulting, Essex, England. Photographer, textile designer, and author. Spender belonged to a breed of documentary photographers that included Walter Evans, who recorded black-and-white images of ordinary life during the Depression Era. After studying at the University of Freiburg, he attended courses at the British Architectural Association and qualified as an architect in 1933. Instead of going into this field, however, Spender returned to his boyhood love of photography and opened up his own studio in London. In 1937, he was hired to be the official photographer for England's Mass Observation project, an initiative similar to the photography program administered by the U.S. Works Progress Administration at the time. From 1937 until 1938, Spender recorded images of working-class Brits, taking the pictures for which he would later become known after his work was rediscovered in the 1970s. Spender also gained recognition for his contributions to the magazine Picture Post and for a series of photographs that included his brother, poet Stephen Spender, and novelist Christopher Isherwood. During World War II, Spender worked for the British War Office, notably saving the lives of a group of war prisoners when he informed the Royal Air Force that they had incorrectly identified a prisoner camp as a military target. By the 1950s, despite his previous success, Spender put away his camera to focus on other artistic pursuits, including painting and wallpaper and textile design. He also taught at the Royal College of Art. His photographs have been collected in such books as Mass Observation: The First Year's Work (1938), Britain Revisited (1968), and Humphrey Spender's Humanist Landscapes: Photo-Documents, 1932–1942 (1997).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Independent (London, England), March 14, 2005, p. 34.
Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2005, p. B17.
New York Times, March 20, 2005, p. A27.
Times (London, England), March 15, 2005, p. 58.