Bert Hardy was born into poverty, the eldest of seven children. His family lived in two dingy rooms in the Elephant and Castle area of London. At the age of 13 Hardy left school for an errand-boy’s job in an engineering firm, but failed the interview. He finally found work at a film developing and printing works, and stayed with the company for nine years saving enough money to buy a Leica camera. In the early 1930s the influence of the German middle-European ‘miniature’ cameramen was being felt in England. Their pictures had ‘an atmosphere, an intimacy, a feeling of flowing life’ which was unknown to British photographers hampered and blinkered by their large-format press cameras.
Hardy was one of the first photographers in England to adopt the miniature for ‘serious’ reportage. He applied for a job as a Leica photographer with the General Photographic Agency in Fleet Street, later working for the Picture Post as a staff photographer. During the war he was called up with the Army Photographic Unit, serving in the Far East and, on demobilisation, returned to thePicture Post. He spent six weeks covering the Korean War and was probably the only photographer to obtain pictures of the landing at Inchon as, unlike other members of the press, Hardy could shoot 1/15 sec at fl.5 with his Leica miniature.