Mathilde Willink, Amsterdam 1976

Mathilde Willink '76 01

Mathilde Willink, Amsterdam 1976

Most portraits tell more about the photographers who make them, than about the people that are photographed. Almost similar words by Richard Avedon are often quoted and used as an excuse to put the attention on the maker of a portrait instead of on the person photographed. Consequently the portrayed is merely used as an object, an easy way to self expression. Inevitable? Maybe. At least something I tried to avoid in this picture of often photographed Mathilde Willink.

A rare exception was the ‘invisible’ English photographer Jane Bown, who recently died, age 89. For over 50 years she made portraits of the ‘rich and famous, infamous and unknown’ for the Observer, a British newspaper published on Sundays. She photographed people like Björk, Beckett, Hockney, Jagger, Lennon, Nurejev, Cocteau, Hopper and Welles. You name it. Even Richard Nixon and the Queen of England. Black-and-white, on location. No tricks, no fakery, no special lights, just a simple camera. Always catching the right moment, giving the impression you’re looking at the person photographed and not at yet another self portrait of the photographer.

“The best pictures come from the unforeseen. They suddenly appear out of nowhere. One moment they are there, the next they are gone. It is very simple to take a picture, but it is very difficult to make a good photograph.” – Jane Bown.

May she rest in peace.


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