Samuel Beckett, back entrance of the Royal Court Theatre, 1976
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. 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. Her work will feature in Proud Central’s 2018 exhibition, ‘Jane Bown: The Observer’.
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