“SHARP-ELBOWED”: Jane Bown among a scrum of male photographers fighting for a shot of Bette Davis at the London Palladium, 1975. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images
Jane Bown, born March 13 1925, died December 21 2014
The Observer published its first Jane Bown photograph in December 1949, initiating a romance between Britain’s oldest Sunday paper and one of the country’s best-loved photographers. To coincide with the publication of Bown’s definitive collection, Exposures, and her London exhibition, the Guardian has brought together all of Bown’s work in this interactive guide
A self-portrait of Jane Bown taken a round 1986 (detail). Photograph: Jane Bown/PR
Her much-admired picture of Samuel Beckett, showing his face as a cracked desert of lines protruding from a white polo-neck, was captured at the stage door at the Royal Court after he had declined to see her. A very determined character beneath a gentle, nervous manner, she obtained a memorable portrait of Richard Nixon by crawling through the legs of the crowd outside his hotel and shouting to him to look at her.
She worked only in black and white. She was asked to try colour for the Observer when it launched a colour magazine in the 1960s, but she didn’t like it and soon abandoned the experiment. She also used natural light; the only “equipment” she ever allowed herself was a table lamp, which she occasionally carried around to illuminate a face when the light was especially bad. She never used flash or an exposure meter.
An exhibition of Bown’s ran at Kings Place, London N1, until 31 May, 2014.