The full "Jane Bown obituary" at The Guardian is a gold mine of information about how Jane worked as a photographer. Interesting for any photographer, I would think, but must reading for any editorial or photojournalistic environmental portraitist.
A two-paragraph sample, two substantial paragraphs being about the allowable limit for quoting under Fair Use (some punctuation and spelling has been corrected):
In stark contrast to her mostly male peers, Jane was supremely uninterested in camera equipment. With some reluctance, she abandoned her beloved Rolleiflex in the early '60s, first migrating to a 35mm Pentax before settling on the Olympus OM1—she owned about a dozen Olympus cameras, all bought secondhand. Throughout her career she referred to herself as a 'hack,' and even when her reputation was at it height, she always deferred to the picture editor. She worked almost exclusively with natural light and ignored the camera's in-built light meter, preferring instead to hold a clenched fist away from her body to see how the light fell on the back of her hand. In fact, Jane once admitted to me that her preferred setting was ƒ/2.8 at 1/60 second and that she would, if at all possible, conspire to make the environment work at this setting—indirect sunlight from a north-facing widow would usually achieve it.
Jane tried colour in the mid-'60s—largely in response to the launch of the Observer colour supplement—but abandoned it after three years, finding the medium too inflexible. But I think her true motivation had more to do with aesthetics—using available light to dramatise the subject with the infinite gradations of grey between pure black and white provided the subtlety that was her stock in trade. 'Colour is too noisy,' she once said. 'The eye doesn't know where to rest.'
Very fine article. Written by Luke Dodd and Eamonn McCabe.
Alun J. Carr provides a link to a collection of Jane's work at the National Portrait Gallery. Note that Fair Use needs to be observed if downloading these images! Or I would have used this one to illustrate this post (from her Rolleiflex years, in this case 1959).
Richard Parkin tells us that Looking for Light, the Jane Bown documentary, is available for rent or purchase from the UK iTunes Store. Not the USA one, though. Here's the trailer:
(Thanks to Carl Weese, Alun, and Richard)
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Featured Comments from:
Scott Johnston: "This lady is just so wonderful—I wish I could be her, quietly crafting beautiful pictures with nothing but the essential character of the subject in mind. Wow. Thanks Mike."
John Sarsgard: "As a portrait photographer, I have no higher ambition than to imitate Jane Bown as well as I possibly can. Her process is exactly how I feel called to work. I have no need to do anything differently, only to work with people as she did. RIP, lovely lady."