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London and Europe

Café, London
Café, London circa 1954, Brake, Brian (1927–1988), London. Gift of Wai Man Lau, 2010. Te Papa

Brake left New Zealand for London in 1954, hoping to get work in the film industry. However, he found that union rules prevented him from working. At first he fell back on portraiture, using his bedroom as a studio. Then, in a stroke of luck, he met Magnum photographers Ernst Haas and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Soon, Brake was himself accepted at a provisional level into Magnum.

The Magnum agency promoted the work of member photographers to magazines and coordinated their assignments, in return for a 40 per cent cut of their earnings. The reputation of Magnum also supported its photographers. Brake, for example, found that with the name Magnum behind him, doors to magazine editors that were previously closed now opened.

Brake’s first jobs were fairly small and located in the United Kingdom or Europe. Like many freelance photojournalists, he worked on a mixture of specific assignments and speculative jobs.

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