The Life of Jane Bown

Photographer Jane Bown dies….









This week saw the death of Jane Bown, the legendary photographer for the London Observer newspaper. Whilst the title ‘legendary’ is so often abused in modern times her contribution to twentieth century photojournalism should not be underestimated.

Her subjects were varied and considerable, from the Beatles to Samuel Beckett and Queen Elizabeth, Bette Davis and Francis Bacon amongst many others. Taking a photography course at the Guildford School of Art in 1946, she borrowed £50 from her aunt to buy her first camera and never looked back. Her unassuming manor was evident in her approach to photographing subjects, when, more often than not, she would take a camera out of a shopping bag, get her shot and go.

Her catalogue of images is a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Sixties icons, her framing and ability to capture a personal, more pensive style from her subjects gave her work another dimension. Her subjects always seemed relaxed in her company which came through in the photographs and she always preferred to make the best use of available, natural light. When she wasn’t photographing celebrities she could be seen on the streets of London to Batley capturing the essence of the British character in the 1940s through to the late 60s. A major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1980 was followed by a CBE in 1995.

June Bown died shortly before her 90th birthday.


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