Jane Bown

I recently bought the, rather wonderful, book Exposures – a collection of Jane Bown’s work over many years a photographer at ‘The Observer’. The book is full of beautifully observed and weighted images, all of which are very nicely reproduced. Jane Bown worked almost entirely in black and white and said, in 2009 I think, that she couldn’t imagine using a digital camera. Exposures touches on her use of 40 year old OM-1s and in a 2009 interview she admits to owning about a dozen – bought secondhand many years ago:). She also comments that these days she tends to use only the 50mm and 85mm lenses. There is a video interview here about some of her work.

This got me to thinking, not about film and digital, but about the benefits that can be gained from singlemindedness. Often photographers want to do everything. Of course, professionals need to be able to turn their hand to whatever pays the bils, but if you’re not doing it for money then you don’t need to ape the pros. I think it’s more likely to be productive to just focus on what you want to photograph and learn to do that well, without any need to reinforce the ego (or assuage the guilt at the cost of the latest bit of kit!) by seeking profit at the weekends…

I know I don’t have time to play those games and it’s a joy to realise that.

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