In Looking for the Light: Jane Bown (directed by Luke Dodd and Michael White), a documentary about the little-known (in Canada anyway) British photographer Jane Bown, we get to see her portraits of some of the world’s most famous faces—Samuel Beckett, Bertrand Russell, Mick Jagger, the Queen, and many more—on the big screen where we can bask in the textures and details.
Bown’s black and white images rely only on natural light and she is famous for not using a light meter; instead she sticks out her hand and decides for herself on the best aperture.Her career began at the Observer newspaper in London in 1949, where she rose to prominence over many years. The film intersperses present–day interviews with her at the age of nearly 90 with other footage taken in 2005 where she speaks fondly of her career and of her upbringing, a topic that still preoccupies her. She was farmed out to relatives of her single mother and seems to have learned quickly to feel at home anywhere.
The Observer was an important home to her and she still gets her wheelchair rolled over to sit in the lobby on occasion to meet up with current employees. Her gift in portrait photography seems to have been partly due to her ability to make people feel comfortable and, as she describes her process, to “find” rather than take a photo. And “find” she does as is evidenced by the eyes of the subjects: the portraits show an uncanny intensity and human depth. You’ll come away with new appreciation for the gorgeous qualities of black and white portraiture—there are many shades of grey.
Thursday Oct 2, 1:30pm PLAY
Tuesday Oct 7, 6:45pm SFU
Friday Oct 10, 10am VCT
Buy tickets here.