Michael George interviewed in this extract from Brooklyn Magazine
New York
taped 29 October 1981

Alan Bennett on the Brooklyn Bridge Portfolio

Alan Bennett, b.1934
Derry Moore, 1992. Colour print, 367x297mm
© Derry Moore, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG P525)

Collection: Michael George

In the background, centre, is Brooklyn Bridge, the bestselling postcard that Michael George made in 1980 of a photograph that he took in 1979.
April 15 ‘12
Many thanks for sending me the Brooklyn Bridge portfolio – I’m pleased you recognised your photograph. I can’t confirm whether I bought it or was sent it as I no longer live at that house, trust I have the contents of the mantelpiece somewhere. It’s a wonderful picture – crossing the bridge (or even seeing it) was always a thrill. Poignant too, for that shot with the twin towers. Sorry for this dull card – the only one to hand.
Alan Bennett
October 5 ‘12
Dear Michael,
What a lovely surprise arrived this morning! Two actually. Thank you so much. The book is really good and evocative – and affectionate. And thank you for the Brooklyn Bridge portfolio, which is most impressive – How interesting that one of the photographs features prominently on Alan Bennett’s mirror. I know I shall go on enjoying the book – I like the Bexhill-on-Sea headline (the School Dinner Lady killed by Wasp)! Memorable –

Best wishes and thank you again –
Yours Derry

Derry Moore
in response to
The Brooklyn Bridge 1883-1983 A Centennial Portfolio
Sussex by the Sea

Whatever is in the background of a portrait – the small details that may at first go unnoticed but soon congregate into sharp focus – can, if well chosen, add brilliantly to the viewer’s perception of an individual. In Derry Moore’s adroit colour print of Alan Bennett, photographed in 1992, the chosen background is full of noisy variety, it talks to you. Moore has positioned Bennett in front of a gilded classical mirror, whose surface is almost entirely covered up with cards and photos. These range in subject from a young WH Auden, a cobbled Paris street, a provincial playhouse, a boy looking rather like the young Picasso holding a white dog, a theatre programme, a wrought iron staircase to assorted snaps of Bennett himself with relations or friends. In Bennett’s solid, unmoving face, we can recognise his trademark outward persona, the “wryly amused northern stoic”. But near his head, above and around the unchanging blond hairline, the collage of pictures suggests to perfection the writer’s voice talking and wondering, selecting and sifting, a mind fully alive and curious about the world.

Novelist Rose Tremain, about a writer’s portrait she admires, in “Still Lives”,
Arts, Review Saturday Guardian 26.06.10

Other correspondence

Alan Trachtenberg
Brooklyn Bridge
Fact and Symbol

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1965;
Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979
Second Edition includes: A Walker Evans Portfolio
“of his Brooklyn Bridge photographs of 1929,
many never before seen”
Afterword: Walker Evans’s Brooklyn Bridge)
Paul Roebling (1934 – 1994)
Actor; great-grandson of Brooklyn Bridge builders
Washington Augustus Roebling and Emily Warren Roebling

Return to menu