Monday, 22 December 2014

Jane Bown, 1925 - 2014

Jane Bown, Samuel Beckett, 1976
Jane Bown died on 21 December 2014.
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

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