Prints among Men; EXHIBITIONS Bruce Bernard: 100 Photographs/ Stepping in and out Victoria and Albert Museum
Bishop, Claire, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Byline: CLAIRE BISHOP
BRUCE Bernard was an immensely respected and well-loved picture editor who died in 2000. He is best known for his work at the Sunday Times Magazine during the 1970s, and for his book Century (Phaidon 1999), a compendium of significant images for each year of the last century. But Bernard was more than just a wizard picture editor. He was also a photographer - his portraits of painters were recently on show at Tate Modern - and a key figure in 1950s bohemian Soho. Friends with Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud (there are two portraits of Bernard in the current Tate Britain show), he had an eye for an image honed by close association with these leading painters.
In 1996, the Littlewoods heir James Moores asked Bernard to put together a photographic collection. Bernard enjoyed scouting high and low for work at international art fairs, auctions and flea markets, and shortly before his death he edited the collection down to 100 images that "truly stimulated and satisfied" him.
(He had originally hoped to buy another 50 or so images, but insanely rising prices encouraged him to downsize.) The resulting "rather unpredictable hoard of basically serious booty" currently enlivens the V&A's sepulchral Canon Photography Gallery.
Casting your eye over these 100 images is the visual equivalent of listening to a wonderfully eclectic compilation CD. Big hits lead on to unexpected unknowns, and there are endless variations within a distinctive but unified mood. The overall tone is a sea of sepia - colour hardly ever makes an appearance, and when it does it is highly subdued, as in Toby Glanville's portrait of a young plasterer. But within this there's a democratic mix of famous and found, amateur and professional. …