Jane Bown

About Jane Bown

Jane Bown (1925-2014) joined the Observer in 1949 and over the course of the next six decades created a remarkably singular body of work that straddled all areas of photojournalism.  It is, however, for her insightful, intimate and deeply respectful portraits that she is best remembered.  Her working method was legendary – speed and simplicity.  She used Olympus OM1s from the early 1970s, liked to expose no more than two films, never used a light meter, never had an assistant, used natural light only, and worked, almost exclusively, in black and white.  She was very proud of the fact that she never returned from a shoot empty-handed.  She used her diminutive stature and self-effacing nature to put her subjects at ease and had an instinctive understanding when she had captured the 'jackpot snap'.  Famously reluctant to talk about her working method, Jane once admitted that for the brief moment when she looked at somebody through a lens, what she felt could best be described in terms of an intense love.