Luke showed us a rich collection of images, illuminated with anecdotes of how they were taken and the situations which arose. He spoke with respect and affection for Jane Bown and gave us a vivid insight into her character and approach. He described a shy woman of diminutive stature with, by her own admission, ‘sharp elbows’. She knew all about studio lights and technical gizmos but her preferred method of working was to use natural light and no props, often with her battered Olympus cameras carried in a shopping bag. She measured the light by seeing where it fell on the back of her own hand and circled her subjects, including the Queen, exploring possible angles and compositions. She was liked by picture editors because she was quick, unobtrusive and efficient and always got her shot - including the famous one of Samuel Beckett, when she cornered him at the stage door. We saw image after image which had been perfectly exposed, creatively composed and which had also caught a fleeting expression or moment to make them special.
Luke said she was particularly good at catching the moment her subjects relaxed and showed vulnerability and more of themselves than in the official poses. The Beatles just liked having her around. It was such an impressive body of work;mainly black and white film portraits, crowds, demonstrations and social documentary, and so fascinating to hear first hand from Luke how she approached her assignments and life in general.
We welcomed members of the RPS First Tuesday Group who joined us for Luke’s excellent and most enlightening presentation.