The British portrait photographer Jane Bown, known for her images of famous people including the Beatles and Francis Bacon and Samuel Beckett, has died aged 89.
Working for the Observer newspaper from 1949 she produced iconic imagery for more than half a century. Many of her best known pictures are in the National Portrait Gallery. John Mulholland Observer Sunday editor dubbed her “part of the Observer’s DNA”. Bown was in the Observer offices last August but had since stopped taking photos because of her frailty.
Her subjects also included: David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Orson Welles, Sir John Betjeman, Woody Allen, Cilla Black, Quentin Crisp, P. J. Harvey, John Lennon, Truman Capote, John Peel, the gangster Charlie Richardson, Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, Jarvis Cocker, Björk, Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Evelyn Waugh, Brassai and Margaret Thatcher. She took Queen Elizabeth II’s eightieth birthday portrait.
“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; Mr Mulholland also stated.
The Observer’s restaurant critic, Jay Rayner, wrote on Twitter: “It was a huge honour to work her on a few stories We shall not see the like. “Jane Bown’s method was entirely disarming: a camera pulled from a shopping bag, a gaze as if to check the subject was interesting enough, He tweeted: “Then just a dozen or so shots and she was done. Somewhere in there would be an image that most everyone else would have taken 100 to get.”
In 1985, she was awarded an MBE and in 1995, a CBE. She was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society in 2000. These are awarded to ‘distinguished persons having, from their position or attainments, an intimate connection with the science or fine art of photography or the application thereof’.