Jane Bown is a celebrity portrait photographer for the observer and has been photographing celebrities for over 50 years. Now I have have mixed feelings about celebrity photography because I quite often find that the pictures don't always stand up on their own, but not so with Jane's portraits.
I'll admit it I'm a real sucker for black and white portraits, shallow depth of field, close cropping and plenty of dramatic shadow is what I want. This book delivers it in spades. Jane shoots exclusively in black and white, using only continous light. This sometimes means that some of the shots are a bit blurred or not as sharp as some people would like, but the composition and character that she captures overrides such onsiderations and the images remain powerful.
The attraction of this book for photographers, is that each picture has a short paragraph or two detailing the conditions of the shoot, giving an insight into the work of a celebrity portrait photographer. Sometimes it will be about how she thought about the composition, or it might be about how she got the light she needed. There are a few neat tips in the book and you don't get to travel much lighter than with a camera a couple of lenses and a 150W bulb for emergencies.
It doesn't come across as an instructional book, more of a genteel conversation from one photographer to another, with many very fine pictures. The print quality isn't the best but then a lot of these images would have originally been newsprint, so they reproduce quite well.
Hey maybe I should give out marks for these reviews? Or maybe not? Its a good book. Check it out if you see it in the book shop.