Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems

Neil Libbert: a witness in the background waiting to “pounce on that unguarded moment, because once people are aware, they pose”. 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems New York girl in rollers, 1974
New York girl in rollers, 1974 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

The 60-year career of photographer Neil Libbert: born in Salford, moved to Manchester where he studies at the Regional College of Art and later starts to work as a photographer for Manchester Guardian where one of his first features was a series about homelessness.

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Man in a cafe, Salford, Lancashire, 1957 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Man in a cafe, Salford, Lancashire, 1957 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

“I had a keen interest in watching and observing people, a witness to events.”

 

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Holborn, London, December 1967 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Holborn, London, December 1967 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

In 1961 he moved to London where he collaborates with GuardianThe Sunday Times, the New York Times, Granada TV and the Illustrated London News until 1968 when he became a freelance photographer. 

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Boys in Harlem, New York, 1960 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Boys in Harlem, New York, 1960 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

“What I do is often on the border between being an intruder and an observer – it’s called clandestine photography.” 

 

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems New York Subway, 1960 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
New York Subway, 1960 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

His work has been exhibited at the National Theatre, Camden Arts Centre, Whitechapel Gallery, Zelda Cheatle Gallery, Michael Hoppen Gallery and the Stables Gallery, New Mexico among others, and 16 of his works are held in the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery. In 1999 he was Nikon News Photographer of the Year and won a World Press Photo Award for his exclusive coverage of the bombings in The Admiral Duncan pub, Soho which made the front page of the Guardian.

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Soho nail bomb: the first casualties emerge dazed from the blast, Admiral Duncan Pub, Old Compton Street, London, 30th April 1999 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Soho nail bomb: the first casualties emerge dazed from the blast, Admiral Duncan Pub, Old Compton Street, London, 30th April 1999 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

Libbert has also received an award for his coverage of the homeless and has made his enduring reputation through street photography and reportage, which includes coverage of the Brixton riots in 1981.

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Judi Dench in her dressing room (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Judi Dench in her dressing room (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

Whatever his subject and whenever it was shot, Libbert’s knack for capturing those tiny moments that tell a thousand stories make each photograph as brilliant and revelatory as the next.

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Adam Cooper, 1996 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Adam Cooper, 1996 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

“ Looking back I see little difference between early work and what I do today. It is still about the power of observation, and one is just a witness to events.”

 

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Foyles book shop, Charing Cross Road, London, 1972 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Foyles book shop, Charing Cross Road, London, 1972 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

Today most people can take a photograph anywhere, at any time, but just because someone can take a photograph doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a photographer. 

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Canadian writer Alice Munro, 1987 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Canadian writer Alice Munro, 1987 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

So what does he think makes a brilliant photograph? “I wish I knew…” says Libbert. “It has something to do with the coming together of composition, light, subject matter, or as Cartier-Bresson said, it’s the ‘decisive moment.’ There are no rules.”

 

Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Voting in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, 1980 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Voting in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, 1980 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
 
Neil Libbert: a witness to events. Bridgeman Collections Gems Soldier at the Western Wall, June 1967 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images
Soldier at the Western Wall, June 1967 (b/w photo) / © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

 

 
Find out more
 
Read our interview with Neil Libbert: Neil Libbert: Chronicler of Our Times
 
Contact our sales team for inquiries about licensing images for productions and clearing copyright.

 

 

References:

The Photojournalist Using His Camera to Level the Score

NEIL LIBBERT at the MICHAEL HOPPEN GALLERY

 


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