|Jane Bown, Samuel Beckett, 1976|
Bown worked as a staff photographer on The Observer from 1949 - in the course of her work she encountered many remarkable people and made many remarkable portrait photographs. According to her obituarist, Bown was noted for being genereally uninterested in camera equipment. She began her professional career with a Rolleiflex but later moved onto an Olympus OM1 - she owned about a dozen Olympus cameras, all bought secondhand. She always worked with natural light and, apart from a brief spell in the 1960s, in black and white. Her simple and direct approach allowed her to work quickly and quietly and without fuss. Interestingly, although she apparently was meticulous in her checking of her equipment before an assignment (which she carried in a shopping bag) she did little or no research about her subjects and so would encounter them without preconceptions.
Below is a selection of my favourite examples of her work (great pictures, great subjects). Click on images to enlarge; see more pictures here and here.
Read obituaries by Luke Dodd and Eamonn McCabe and in The Telegraph; read also a profile by Luke Dodd and a collection of articles in The Guardian, including: The Lady Behind the Lens, The Eye Had It, Jane Bown Remembered, The Final Image.
|Jane Bown, Postman and Postwoman Having a Picnic, 1966|
|Jane Bown, American Tourists in London, 1968|
|Jane Bown, W.H. Auden|
|Jane Bown, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957|
|Jane Bown, Sir John Betjeman, 1972|
|Jane Bown, Francis Bacon, 1985|
|Jane Bown, Orson Welles, 1951|
|Jane Bown, Lucian Freud, 1983|
|Jane Bown, Bridget Riley, 1989|
|Jane Bown, David Hockney, 1966|
It is sad to note that Billie Whitelaw died on the same day as Jane Bown; if Bown's greatest picture is of Samuel Beckett (see top of post) it seems fitting to conclude with her picture of Whitelaw who was the greatest interpreter of Beckett. Read an obituary for Whitelaw.
|Jane Bown, Billie Whitelaw, 1976|