Photo of the week No.22: Samuel Beckett by Jane Bown

Since beginning the photo of the week series on this blog I’ve learned a lot about the what makes a great photographer.

In short it’s honesty and integrity. Not trying to impose the photographers preconceptions into the photo, letting the unguarded moment be the way to reveal something in the human face. Or, in the case of landscape, letting natural light and shade reveal the majesty, or horror, of nature.

Enough pretentious wittering. Oh, just before a few words on this week’s photo, why is it that black and white photographs seem to carry more meaning than colour? Don’t know – subject for a later date.

Jane Bown worked for the Observer newspaper, and was renowned for her black and white portraits. When accompanying journalists interviewing the famous people of the day, she sought to stay in the background to be better able to capture the unguarded moment.

The story of her photo of the acclaimed Irish playwright Samuel Beckett in 1976, when the Royal Court Theatre’s season celebrated his 70th birthday, is revealing of her tenacity and skill. As The Guardian’s article on the review of her work on her death, aged 89, in 2014, says, “Having thought she’d missed her quarry, Jane snuck round the back of the Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square, where she caught him exiting via the stage door”. [Click on image to expand]

samuel-beckett-by-jane-bown-1976

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