Picking Up Jane Brown
by Arthur Carter
(Derry, Northern Ireland)
Jane Brown? Never knew the woman, never met her, wish I had. Became vaguely aware of her photography a few years back, saw an image of the goggle-eyed photgrapher Brassai she took sometime in the early 80's, the humour of the shot said it all for me...charm, ease, honest portraiture with a sense of immediacy and fun that I love seeing in photography....there's enough force fed dismal trade represented elsewhere.
The Beckett shot stands out also, much as a hewn granite landscape of humanity, still as mill pond water and no hint of expression other than perhaps a slight twinkle in the man's eyes. Just look at the lines hewn into his face - geographical character studies in their own stratified right- like Beckett just emerged from some raw living landscape. That's the striking immediacy of simplicity and honesty/nakedness in good light that does it for me in her informal works...the presentation of a single image begetting a thousand questions of the subject....undistracted by background, to hell with the technical wizardry and many other forms visual noise. Subtle delivery with a strike to the eyeballs, makes one take notice and think?
Didn't need to know her or meet her or work with her, although would have enjoyed seeing her in action with her charges, working them or letting them be as they are. A smart lady who knew how to work quickly with good equipment but little equipment....students of photography might do worse than admire and adopt that ethic. She obviously trusted her gear and stuck with stops, focal distances and formats she liked and built a working relationship with viewer and equipment around that, to my mind an honourable path to follow. Her portrait images tell you everything you need to know about using unadorned simplicity of skill, natural light and being in a travel light/technical state of readiness, putting a subject at ease right away, by all accounts. The shots almost feel they're within the reach of anyone's ability to take, and that's why she shines For me, this is what immediate essential photography should be about...not all this mind bending digital/techno wizardry, which has its place elsewhere, undoubtedly. She's a mystery to me but her work speaks volumes about her...also part of the attraction I think.