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Current Exhibitions

Proud Central Exhibition

Jane Bown: The Observer

28th June – 12th August 2018

Proud Galleries is pleased to present ‘Jane Bown: The Observer’, a retrospective exhibition displaying the works of esteemed photographer Jane Bown. Working within a male dominated industry, this significant 20th Century photojournalist captured eminent portraits of post-war Britain on assignments for The Observer from 1949; a career that spanned six decades and documented the austerity of the 1950s through to the rise of modern celebrity-culture. Bown has been frequently positioned amongst the ranks of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank for her candid style and engagement with the ‘decisive moment’. The collection highlights Bown’s documentary and portraiture work, exploring quintessential Britain and its defining figures through evocative black and white film photography.

Jane Bown began to develop her photographic eye in 1946 when she was accepted into Guildford School of Art’s photography programme, the only full-time course of its kind. Whilst her youthful shyness almost overshadowed a natural talent, Bown’s unassuming and contemplative personality would become her biggest asset as she developed an inimitable photographic technique. In comparison to her male contemporaries Bown had little interest in complex equipment, preferring to gauge the light as shadows fell on her outstretched fist rather than relying on a light meter. She became known for her unobtrusive aura while photographing celebrities more accustomed to the paparazzi; often all she required was one reel of film, fifteen minutes with her subject and indirect sunlight from a window.

From 1949 onwards Bown became a rare female fixture frequently called upon by The Observer. Her extensive portfolio ranged from women’s demonstrations, political strikes and poignant street photography to her more recognised portraits of cultural figures such as Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles and Mick Jagger. Featured within the exhibition is her revered portrait of notoriously camera-shy Samuel Beckett, captured in a dreary back entrance to the Royal Court Theatre in London. Displaying her tenacity and determination in an interview for The Guardian almost 40 years later, Bown stated that she seized the opportunity, literally grabbing Beckett’s arm in order to capture her shot. It has since become the most famous image of the writer and one of Jane Bown’s most recognisable works.

Jane Bown’s photography conveys an emotional narrative through the wordless expression in the eyes of her subject. The work within ‘Jane Bown: The Observer’ cannot be disconnected from Bown’s distinctive character and the idiosyncratic stories which surround the creation of each picture. The uncommonly creative career path of a woman during the conservative post-war period emphasised her strength of character to defy societal expectations. Following two exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery in London and a CBE for her outstanding contribution to photography, Guardian Media Group produced the documentary, ‘Looking for Light: Jane Bown’, reinforcing Bown’s position as a significant 20th century photographer. In her own words, “photographers should neither be seen nor heard” – however, Jane Bown’s emotive work and lasting legacy prove otherwise.

Proud Central
32 John Adam Street


Future Exhibitions

Proud Central Exhibition

Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen

17th August – 30th September 2018

Proud Galleries is pleased to present ‘Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen’, a photographic exhibition displaying rare portraits of Audrey Hepburn captured by a selection of high profile twentieth century photographers. This collection brings together the work of Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson, Bob Willoughby, Eva Sereny, Mark Shaw and Douglas Kirkland; each celebrated for their distinct portrayals of Hepburn. Renowned for her progressive acting roles, stylish sensibilities and humanitarian endeavors, Hepburn remains one of the most instantly recognisable icons of the 1950s and has charmed generations since the Golden Age of Hollywood. ‘Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen’ revisits classic and timeless portraits celebrating Hepburn’s legacy on the 25th anniversary of her death.

Audrey Hepburn’s acting career and influential fashions are widely documented, but lesser-known are the struggles of her early life. Born in 1929 to a Dutch baroness, Hepburn studied ballet throughout her formative years and had ambitions of becoming a professional dancer. Following Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands during World War II, Hepburn’s family suffered tragically during the occupation of her town. Hepburn relocated to London after the war ended where she was scouted during a performance of Cecil Landeau's ‘Sauce Piquante’, 1950. Her first leading film role followed three years later in ‘Roman Holiday’, for which she was commended with an Academy award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.

Throughout her lifetime, Audrey Hepburn achieved over 25 film accreditations and received awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her charitable work with UNICEF. Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer stated, “She never forgot the chocolates and the outstretched hands - the little acts of kindness to children like herself… She wanted to give something back to the world”. Hepburn’s philanthropic efforts and humanitarian work are representative of the generosity she displayed throughout her life; her legacy is continued by sons Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, who co-founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund in their mother’s memory. The charity develops a number of fundraising initiatives and seeks to promote awareness for vulnerable children worldwide.

Through a unique perspective and style, each photographer included within this collection captures Audrey Hepburn’s instantly recognisable appearance. Bob Willoughby’s portraits of a young Hepburn, fresh-faced just after the release of her first film ‘Roman Holiday’ are presented alongside Terry O’Neill’s youthful colour portraits which glow with a childish excitement and exude her playful sense of humor. Her memorable style is articulated through the classic fashion shoots of Norman Parkinson and Douglas Kirkland, as is her characteristic sophistication by Eva Sereny during the filming of ‘Always’. ‘Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen’ exhibits portraits of Audrey Hepburn throughout her life and career, recognising her position in the history of popular culture as well as her contribution to society a quarter of a century after her death.