TALKING IMAGES 7 – JANE BOWN HAS DIED

 


Jane Bown: selfie(!).  Photo credit: The Guardian

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In many cases, when a famous photographer dies, I’ve either never heard of them, or know of them only from a few photos from long ago.  Jane Bown is a marked exception.  My admiration for her is immense, maybe limitless, and she is certainly amongst those few people whom I think of as my heroes in this life.

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Who was she?  Well, she was a housewife and mum, who liked her job photographing famous people for The Guardian newspaper because it allowed her plenty of time for her home life and children.  She was quite a retiring person – photos of her are relatively few – and I am blown away by the fact that, to photograph the famous, she took along her old and battered Olympus OM-1 SLRs (see photo above) in her shopping bag.  So then, hardly a celebrity herself, definitely not a jet setter, and not at all a seeker of the limelight.

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And so, what sort of pictures did this retiring woman manage?  Well, to see them, all you have to do is go to the link given above – and onto Google too, where you search for “jane bown” and choose the images option.  I have just done that and, quite simply, my eyes are moist with emotion – emotion fuelled not by her death, though that is of course a sad event, but by the sheer, overpowering quality and humanity of her portraits.  I know many of them well because I have her book Exposures Jane Bown (ISBN 978-0-85265-141-4) and I have, on many occasions, been deeply moved by her studies.

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Some of my favourites?  Sinead O’Connor 1992, Henri Cartier-Bresson 1957, Francis Bacon 1985, Bridget Riley 1989, Edna O’Brien 2002, Tennessee Williams 1977, Lucian Freud 1983 (talk about not at ease – look at his clenched fists!), Iris Murdoch 1978, Samuel Beckett 1976, David Bailey 2005 (another hero!), Philip Larkin 1979, R. S. Thomas 1964.

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So, we mourn a death, but celebrate an incredible talent and visual legacy.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

18 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 7 – JANE BOWN HAS DIED

  1. athyfoto says:

    Hello Adrian, I’m afraid this story passed me by so I’m glad you took the time to put up your thoughts on it. Like others, I know some of the portraits but not the talented lady that created them. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. LensScaper says:

    I read her Obit in The Times yesterday (and a very good one it was too), and although some of her work is well known to me, until now it had remained anonymous, never correctly attributed in my brain.

    Like

  3. ehpem says:

    I didn’t know her name until today, but grew up with her portraits. Thanks for putting a name to them for me. If only we all could leave such a mark during out lifetimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Glad to be of help, ehpem! Leaving a mark is difficult – I recall reading sometime back that, as photographers and unless we’re really special / lucky, most if not all of our output is destined for landfill 😦 !!! Thanks for your thoughts! Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My favourite photographer…

    Like

  5. alan frost says:

    Although aware of her work, your post reminded me to look at her images again. Some wonderful portraits and all the more poignant to look at them knowing the photographer is no longer with us. A sad day.

    Like

  6. paula graham says:

    Well Spoken, Adrian.

    Like

  7. andybeel says:

    Hi Adrian 60 or so years for The Guardian a sad loss. I am also a huge fan. Andy

    Like

  8. Nelson says:

    I did not know Jane Bown until I read your post this morning. I had a quick look at her work and she was definitly a great portraitist.

    Like

  9. Robert says:

    Amazing photographs! A sad day Adrian.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, great sadness, Robert – but she lives on through her photographs. Thanks for your thoughts – and a very good Christmas and New Year to you – or maybe yesterday’s solstice was the thing. Adrian

      Like

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