We are reached this morning with news of the death of the great Jane Bown. The quintessential photojournalistic portraitist, she worked for the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, the UK's The Observer, for more than half a century, beginning 65 years ago.
Renowned for modest reticence and for the simplicty of her style, she worked quietly and quickly, without calling attention to herself, using natural light.
Just this year a film documentary of her life was released, called Looking for Light. It's not available online that I know of. [UPDATE: The DVD is available from Amazon UK. There is also a Limited Premium Edition that includes a signed original print. NOTE that these will be Region 2 (European Union) DVDs. These play on Apple Computers (what I use) if you reset the region, but you are only allowed to reset the region five times!! Be careful. Thanks to Gill R and Bob Curtis for this. —Ed.]
Here's a brief recent profile of her from British television:
The book Faces is subtitled "The creative process behind great portraits," but Jane sums it up in a jot: "What people say to me is how do I do this. And I say, just look."
Observer Editor John Mulholland, quoted in the Guardian obituary, said "her contribution to the paper’s history, as well to Britain’s artistic legacy, is immense, and will long survive her. She was loved by her colleagues and adored by our readers. We will miss her hugely."
She was 89.
(Thanks to Guy Batey and Leslie Ashe)
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Featured Comments from:
Elaine: "Oh, I loved Jane Bown's work! I still have her book Faces. She used Olympus film cameras. Her work really inspired me. She used natural lighting, which is what I love. She was such an inspiration to me. R.I.P., Jane. :-( "
David Paterson: "In the '70s and early '80s I worked quite regularly for the Observer's Sunday magazine and was fortunate to meet Jane Bown a couple of times. She was friendly but brisk and there was a strong impression of an acute intelligence in spite of her quiet manner. She was a legend even then—cameras in a shopping bag—and will be greatly mourned and missed even though she retired quite some time ago. A true great."
Alan Hill: "Ars est celare artem (art is about concealing art)—has there ever been a better example of the truth of this old saying?"