After a successful career in business, Bern Schwartz (1914–1978), returned to his hobby of photography at the age of sixty. Within just four years, he established himself as a renowned portrait photographer attracting famous sitters from across the globe. These included prominent members of the British establishment of the time—actors, dancers, artists, writers, politicians and royalty—as well as international luminaries. His portraits were first exhibited to great acclaim at the Colnaghi Gallery in London in 1977. Further exhibitions followed including more recently at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2008-09, and at the Mishkenot Sh’ananim and the Naggar School, Jerusalem in 2012. His work is represented in public and private collections worldwide.
Thirty years later, these portraits still engage the viewer. Their immediacy and often informal style are due, in part, to Schwartz’s approach. He usually captured his sitters at home or at work. And, with his wife and collaborator Ronny, he conducted extensive research before each sitting. This allowed him, instead of standing behind the camera, to engage in animated conversations with his subjects who barely noticed his click of the shutter release kept in his pocket.
"He caught us when we weren’t posing," recalled the journalist and broadcaster, Alistair Cooke, one of Schwartz’s subjects, "which is how he captures so much life and animation. It was as if we weren’t even having our picture taken, just talking with a friend." Schwartz recorded each sitting in his journal, excerpts from which are included in some of the labels that accompany the photographs on this website.