on 23 October 2001
A pair of inviting eyes and an almost beckoning finger draw you into this remarkable book. Jane Bown's "Faces: The Creative Process Behind Great Portraits" is a collection of some of her best photographs of famous people.
Photographer extrodinaire, her talent is evident on each page and, when we read the brief descriptions of how each picture was taken, it is even more amazing. Some were taken with only a few minutes of time allocated and in very difficult locations.
The black and white pictures, taken mostly in natural light, reveal subjects relaxed and comfortable. As we look at them, we see more than just a face, but not as voyeurs. There is no unwanted exposure, just intimacy and trust between subject and photographer.
Subjects range from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Mother Theresa via Richard Burton, Noel Coward and Orson Welles. John Betjeman's laugh is a masterpiece and a pensive Eartha Kitt is moving. There is nothing intrusive, but we can feel a personal empathy with them, thoughtful, contemplative, laughing, dreaming or, sometimes, smiling.
We see familiar people in a different light and learn a little more about them. This is a book that I shall return to frequently, certain to find something new each time.
on 9 October 2003
If you thought that beautiful portrais can only be made by using fancy strobes, incedent light meters, backgrounds and reflectors, this book will change your mind. Bowen only uses natural light and very little else, yet her portraits are technically perfect, sensitive and soulful. The photographs in the book depict celebrities in black and white and in a manner which provides a glimpse into their true character. The author also provides a little information about the shooting conditions and why the end result works. (However, it is not a how-to instruction book.) A must-read for anyone interested in portrait photography.
on 22 February 2002
In a previous book, The Gentle Eye, the commentary at the back likened Jane Bown's photography with Jane Austen's novels; quintesntiually English, observant, using all but a simple canvas. This book highlights how she has taken penetrating photographs with simple equipment (no meters, flashes, props, backdrops, studio lights, zoom lenses, exotic locations). With her commentary, she draw the reader's attention to the use of natural light, dark and light, hands and framing to give the reader the benefit of decades of picture-taking experience.
on 19 September 2005
Working in black and white with an SLR-camera set to 1/60th at f 2,8 - and without the use of flash - Jane Bown succeeds to catch the core of the personality of her sitters. In this book we can witness the result of her 50 years as a photographer for the Observer. What strikes me is her is the naturalness of her approach - completely free of the dressing up we may find in more commercial portraiture.
Besides being an example to all those practising the art of portrait photography, this is definitely a book for the culturally interested reader of contemporary history. The personalities of many of the persons who have put their stamps on this period are subtly revealed to us by Jane Bown, and the book may thus be a supplement to any historical text and broaden our understanding of our own time.
on 15 March 2001
Forget the gimmicks, and don't worry about your equipment. Jane Brown has been taking fantastic portraits for decades using a camera and standard lens. All you need is light, imagination, the ability to get on with people, and pure genius
on 11 March 2001
Inspirational. Although I must declare that my own photographic preferences mirror Jane's. That's to say, natural light, Kodak Tri-X film so if you're not into black and white photography then buy this book anyway, you'll be converted.
After reading the book, I felt my portraits actually got better...