Jane Bown: The Observer

Proud Central, 32 John Adam Street, London

Picture of Jane Bown: The Observer

Event location:
Proud Central, 32 John Adam Street Charing Cross WC2N 6BP
When:Event passed!
It was on
Thu 28th Jun 2018 to
Sun 12th Aug 2018

See more
Where:Proud Central, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP
Map:Map & Nearby
Times:Monday - Saturday: 10.00 - 19.00 Sunday: 10.00 - 18.00
Admission:Free - no tickets required

About the event

Proud Galleries is pleased to present ‘Jane Bown: The Observer’, a retrospective exhibition displaying the works of esteemed photojournalist Jane Bown.

Working within a male dominated industry, this significant 20th Century female photographer 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.

Images courtesy of Proud Galleries © Jane Bown Estate

Official Link: https://www.proudonline.co.uk/

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