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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Brian Brake

Dates:  1927, 27 June - 1988
Born:  New Zealand, Wellington
Died:  New Zealand, Auckland
Active:  Global
New Zealand photographer and filmmaker. He was a widely traveled photojournalist who worked with Magnum (1955-1966).

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Brian Brake
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

Brian Brake started his career in 1945 as an assistant in a Wellington portrait studio. He joined the New Zealand National Film Unit as a cameraman in 1949 and was also involved in directing films, including the prize-winning Snows of Aorangi (1950).
In 1953 he moved to Europe to pursue a career in photojournalism. Through the invitation of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ernst Haas, Brake joined Magnum in 1954. Specialising in Asia, he became one of the most famous documentary photographers of the late 1950s and the 1960s. In 1957 Brake was one of three Magnum photographers permitted to work in China and in 1959 he became the only western photographer to cover the tenth anniversary celebrations of Chinese Communism.
Brake started to publish colour picture stories, the most influential of which, Monsoon, first appeared in Life magazine in September 1960. His use of imaginative sequencing helped to establish Brake as one of the masters of colour photojournalism. Having worked mainly for Life magazine during the 1960s, Brake settled briefly in Hong Kong, where he worked in documentary film making, before returning to New Zealand in 1976. In the 1980s he helped establish the New Zealand Centre for Photography.
The Brian Brake collection is held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Further research

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Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
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