Hardy on assignment, February 1941 with Contax II 35 mm rangefinder camera.
Albert William Thomas Hardy
19 May 1913
Blackfriars, London, England
|Died||3 July 1995 (aged 82)|
Oxted, Surrey, England
Life and work
Bert Hardy rose from humble working class origins in Southwark, London. The eldest of seven children, he left school at age 14 to work for a chemist who also processed photos. His first big sale came when he photographed King George V and Queen Mary in a passing carriage, and sold 200 small prints of his best view of the King. Hardy freelanced for The Bicycle magazine, and bought his first small-format Leica 35 mm. He signed on with the General Photographic Agency as a photographer, then founded his own freelance firm Criterion.
Picture Post and World War II
In 1941, Hardy was recruited by the then editor Tom Hopkinson of the leading picture publication of the 1930s to the 1950s, Picture Post. Founded in 1938 and funded by publisher Edward Hulton, the magazine's first editor was Hungarian émigré Stefan Lorant (1901–97) assisted by Hopkinson, who took over as editor from 1940. The picture-centric, left-leaning and reasonably-priced publication was highly successful and circulation soon rose to over a million. Hardy's photographer colleagues included Felix H. Man (aka Hans Baumann), John Chillingworth, Thurston Hopkins, Kurt Hutton, Leonard McCombe, Francis Reiss, Humphrey Spender, Grace Robertson and Bill Brandt, who went out with the writers on stories together, working as colleagues, not competitors.
Hardy was self-taught and used a Leica —unconventional gear for press photographers of the era— but went on to become the Post's Chief Photographer, after he earned his first photographer credit for his 1 February 1941 photo-essay about Blitz-stressed fire-fighters.
Hardy served as a war photographer in the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) from 1942 until 1946: he took part in the D-Day landings in June 1944; covered the liberation of Paris; the allied advance across the Rhine; and was one of the first photographers to enter the liberated Belsen to record the suffering there. He also saved some Russian slaves from a fire set by German police in the city of Osnabrück, before photographing the aftermath.
Near the end of World War II, Hardy went to Asia, where he became Lord Mountbatten's personal photographer. He later went on the cover the Korean War along with journalist James Cameron for Picture Post, reporting on atrocities committed by Syngman Rhee's police under the United Nations flag at Pusan in 1950, and later on that war's turning point, the Battle of Inchon, photojournalism for which he won the Missouri Pictures of the Year Award.
Hardy stayed on until Picture Post ceased publication in June 1957. It succumbed to the rise of television and falling circulation, and its increasingly unpopular identification with Labour’s ‘New Britain and ‘Fair Shares for All"; the party being defeated in the 1951 election. There being no other outlets for photojournalists, Hardy became an advertising photographer before giving the medium up altogether to become a farmer in 1964.
Three of Hardy's photos were used in Edward Steichen's famous The Family of Man exhibition and book; two were taken in Burma, including one of a monk at his desk in deep thought. Another shows a young couple, much in love and relaxing by the window of a tiny basement flat, photographed for part of a feature in Picture Post magazine 'Scenes From The Elephant' published 8 January 1949, on everyday life in the Elephant and Castle district of South London. According to Hardy, the man in that portrait was a Canadian recently released from prison who had just spent a night with the prostitute in the photographer's image. 
One of his most famous, and Hardy long claimed his favorite, photo, shows two street urchins off on a lark in Gorbals, an image which has come to represent Hardy's keenest documentary skill. He said he liked it so much, because it represented his own rough-and-tumble upbringing, with Glasgow's Gorbals very much resembling London's Elephant & Castle District. Hardy himself was photographed many times, including during the war; three very good photo-portraits of him are currently in the Photographs Collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
Having written an article for amateur photographers suggesting that you didn't need an expensive camera to take good pictures, Hardy staged a carefully posed photograph of two young women sitting on railings above a breezy Blackpool promenade using a Box Brownie in 1951, a photograph which has since become an iconic image of post-war Britain.
Just before Picture Post closed, Hardy took 15 photos of the Queen's entrance at the Paris Opera on 8 April 1957, which were assembled as a photo-montage by the magazine's technicians. It was one of the most challenging photo-montages ever created, because there were a sizeable live crowd, guards, and other dignitaries, in front of his camera. After leaving Picture Post Hardy became one of the most successful advertising photographers until his retirement in 1964 to his farm in Oxted.
A memorial plaque honouring him is in the journalists' church, St Bride's, Fleet Street, London.
In October 2008, London Borough of Southwark unveiled a Blue Plaque on Bert Hardy's family home at The Priory, Webber Street, Southwark. The plaque was erected following a popular vote.
- Bert Hardy. Down the Bay: Picture Post, Humanist Photography and Images of 1950s Cardiff (2003)
- Bert Hardy. Bert Hardy: My Life (The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd, London, 1985)
- birth date at Find My Past site
- death date at Find My Past site
- Hallett, Michael (2006), Stefan Lorant : godfather of photojournalism, The Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0-8108-5682-0
- Chillingworth, John; Butson, Matthew, (writer of introduction.) (2013), Picture Post photographer, Stockport Dewi Lewis Publishing, ISBN 978-1-907893-43-8CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Harcup, Tony (2014), A dictionary of journalism (First ed.), Oxford Oxford University Press, p. 234, ISBN 978-0-19-174436-5
- Brune, Lester H (1996), Korean War : Handbook of the Literature and Research, Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, ISBN 978-0-313-03275-2
- David J Marcou (2013) Crucial collaborations : contexts, departures, arrivals in the first UN-fought war (Korea) via the courageous coverages and shining deeds of Picture Post's Bert Hardy and James Cameron, and some superb UN troops, La Crosse, Wis.
- Delany, Paul (2004), Bill Brandt : a life, Jonathan Cape, p. 330, ISBN 978-0-7126-6542-1
- Hardy, Bert; Gordon Fraser Gallery (1985), Bert Hardy : my life, Gordon Fraser, p. 184, ISBN 978-0-86092-083-0
- Steichen, Edward; Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973, (organizer.); Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967, (writer of foreword.); Norman, Dorothy, 1905-1997, (writer of added text.); Lionni, Leo, 1910-1999, (book designer.); Mason, Jerry, (editor.); Stoller, Ezra, (photographer.); Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (1955). The family of man : the photographic exhibition. Published for the Museum of Modern Art by Simon and Schuster in collaboration with the Maco Magazine Corporation.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Mystery of the Blackpool Belles finally rings true. Telegraph. Retrieved on 28 July 2016.
- Stewart, Pat; Clark, Veronica, 1967-, (author.) (2016), The girl in the spotty dress : memories from the 1950s, and the photo that changed my life, London John Blake, ISBN 978-1-78606-165-2CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- John Prendergast (17 October 2008) BIG FAMILY TURNOUT FOR THE SNAPPER WHO DOCUMENTED THE ELEPHANT. southwarkweekender.co.uk
- Operatic Entrance, by David J. Marcou, Smithsonian, March 2007, pp. 16–18.
- Sue Davies. (1995-07-05). Obituary: Bert Hardy. The Independent. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
- Ben Campkin. Down and Out in London? Photography and the Politics of Representing 'Life in the Elephant', 1948 and 2005 in Swenarton, M., Troiani, T., Webster, H. (ed.) "The Politics of Making" (AHRA Critiques: Critical Studies in Architectural Humanities series. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 230–243. ISBN 978-0-415-43101-9.
- Graham Harrison. (2008). Photo Histories: The Life and Times of Albert Hardy (1913–1995). Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- Photograph of the two young women sitting on railings above the Blackpool promenade
- Selection of Bert Hardy's images of life in London in 1948.
- "The Cockney Eye: Bert Hardy(1913–1995), A Neo-Dickensian 'Picture Post' Hero", the online version (La Crosse History Unbound website) of paperback biography about Bert Hardy of 50,000+ words including full-text, endnotes, and photo-illustrations, authored by David Joseph Marcou, and first published by DigiCOPY of La Crosse, WI, in Feb. 2013.