Jane Bown, the Observer photographer known for her natural light portraits of the famous has died aged 89. One of the great British photographers, sadly missed.
Jane Bown: a life in photography – in pictures From The Guardian
Jane Bown: a self-portrait, c1986
Samuel Beckett, 1976Having thought she’d missed her quarry, Jane snuck round the back of the Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square, where after rehearsals of Beckett’s Happy Days, part of a season celebrating his 70th birthday, she caught him exiting via the stage door
Mick Jagger, 1977
From The Telegraph:
Jane Bown, who has died aged 89, was an outstanding portrait photographer who confounded the experts with the simplicity of her camera technique. She spent 65 years on the Observer, for whom she took several thousand pictures of politicians, bishops, actors, pop stars and other celebrities, as well as ordinary people – miners, hop-pickers and women at a holiday camp – whose faces captured her interest.
Nearly all her pictures were snatched on location during the 10 or 15 minutes she was allowed while a reporter was interviewing someone for the newspaper. A tiny, round-faced, unobtrusive woman, she would appear with only a shopping bag, in which her camera would often compete for space with vegetables for that night’s supper.
This unthreatening demeanour had the effect of defusing a subject’s initial hostility. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took to her and allowed her to stay long after the time allocated by their minders. This resulted in famous portraits of Mick Jagger and John Lennon in particular; she found Paul McCartney “a bit pompous”.
Her much-admired picture of Samuel Beckett, showing his face as a cracked desert of lines protruding from a white polo-neck, was captured at the stage door at the Royal Court after he had declined to see her. A very determined character beneath a gentle, nervous manner, she obtained a memorable portrait of Richard Nixon by crawling through the legs of the crowd outside his hotel and shouting to him to look at her……MORE
Queen Elizabeth II, photographed in 2006 for her 80th birthday. It was Jane’s 80th birthday that same year
The Beatles relax backstage in East Ham, London, 1963When someone asked Jane to leave at the end of the photo shoot, Ringo Starr insisted she be allowed to stay
Sir John Betjeman, 1972
See more of Jane Bown’s portraits in this extensive gallery
From the BBC …
Observer editor John Mulholland called her “part of the Observer’s DNA”.
Bown last appeared in the Observer offices in August, although by then she was too frail to take photographs.
Mr Mulholland said: “During more than 50 years working for the Observer, she produced some of the most memorable and insightful images of prominent cultural and political figures taken during the 20th Century.
“From the Queen to the Beatles, Samuel Beckett to Bjork, John Betjeman to Bob Hope, her beautifully observed pictures have become part of our cultural landscape.
“She is part of the Observer’s DNA – her contribution to the paper’s history, as well to Britain’s artistic legacy, is immense, and will long survive her.
Jane Bown spoke to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2006
“She was loved by her colleagues and adored by our readers. We will miss her hugely.”