Bill Owens

While I was researching Karen Knorr, the one article I referenced mentioned the photographers and conceptual artists who inspired her. One of them was Bill Owens, so not being familiar with his work I decided to check him out. Owens is an American photographer, born in San Jose in 1938. In 1983 he started up a brew pub, Buffalo Bill’s which he operated for 11 years. After selling the brew pub he then went on to publish the magazine BEER and established The American Distilling Institute (ADI), the largest organization that represents independently owned distilleries in the United States. Throughout all this time, Owens still continued to make and exhibit his photographs.

I found Owens’ work resonated far more loudly with me than Knorr’s did. It is more down to earth, and has a touch of humour to it, which I welcomed. He has a number of projects on his website, but the one that I like the most was Suburbia which was first published in 1972 and later reissued in 1999. He gently pokes fun at middle-class America, rather like Martin Parr, highlighting aspects of the growing phenomenon of American consumerism and the strive to complete the stereotypical all-American dream of having a house in the suburbs and everything that goes along with that.

From some photos of his exhibitions, it seems that the caption is displayed at the bottom of the photo within the frame, whereas on his website he has the caption alongside the image. I think that either way they complement the image. Owens’ brilliance occurs with his careful phrasing of the text, taken from recorded conversations with the subjects.

His photos took me down a trip to memory lane –  seeing fashions from the 60’s and 70’s like the mini skirt paired with the granny boots, Tupperware parties, bri-nylon quilted dressing gowns, the gaudy patterned wallpaper and carpets of that time and the non-politically correct sidebars.

Sometimes when you photograph a person, they have something completely opposite to say…you find contradictions.

Bill Owens (Art a GoGo Interview)

Reference List

Bill Owens [online] Available at: http://www.billowens.com/index [Accessed 12 May, 2017]

Lang, Doug (n.d.) Photographer, Brew Master, Publisher: Bill Owens Comes Full Circle [online] Art a Gogo. Available at:  http://www.artagogo.com/interview/owensinterview/owensinterview.htm [Accessed 12 May, 2017]

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