Jane Bown Audio Interview
Jane Bown was first commissioned by The Observer newspaper in London to take a portrait of the philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1949. She was 24 and it was her first commission.
She remained an Observer photographer for the following 60 years photographing many of the cultural icons of the twentieth century including The Beatles, Orson Welles, Samuel Beckett, Henri Cartier Bresson, Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, Richard Nixon and the Queen.
Her approach was simple and effective, always using no more than 2 rolls of film on any shoot and her trusty Rolliflex or Olympus OM1 set at a 60th and 2.8. She is undoubtedly a photographic great.
Her portraits and intimate reportage of British life were always shot in black and white and have a quality and sensitivity that only she could create.
I travelled to Hampshire to talk to her about her career, where she lives in a house previously owned by the novelist Jane Austin's brother.
Not quite as mobile as she once was and suffering from hay fever we sat in the hallway of her elegant home.
She speaks of her fondness for Luke Dodds, her picture editor at the Observer and David Astor, the great newspaper editor. Both of whom she claims are the real force behind her work being seen. Her experience's shooting the Queen, The Beatles and U2 and her complete lack of interest in photographic equipment and other photographers.
She claims that getting information out of her is "Like getting blood out of a stone" but over the time we spoke her steely determination, tenacious attitude and passion for photography and The Observer shine through her modest approach to her incredible career.
In this conversation recorded on 22-5-2009 Jane was talking with Professional Photographer Editor Grant Scott
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