Junior Dowie passes on ... lense of the former chief photographer closes
Veteran Gleaner photographer Junior Dowie passed away yesterday at the University Hospital of the West Indies, where he had been ailing for about a month.
His daughter, Donna Dowie, said that he had been ill for a while. Dowie was 82. He spent the majority of his 60-plus-year career at The Gleaner. His death comes less than two weeks after that of fellow veteran photographer Ray Chen.
In an interview with The Gleaner last year, during The Gleaner's 180 years celebrations, Dowie looked back on his career. He presented photos from his vast catalogue, including numerous state visits to Jamaica by dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II, Martin Luther King Jr, Ronald Reagan, and Nelson Mandela.
Dowie was often lauded for his timing. One of the more famous instances was when Prince Charles, visiting Trench Town in 2008, tried on a 'Rasta cap' but put it on backwards. He didn't have it on for very long, but Dowie captured the moment perfectly.
"You have to have the camera ready, with everything set up," Dowie said in the interview. "You have to work out your exposure beforehand because anything can happen and you always look out for the unexpected."
He was also known for literally going to great heights and depths to get the perfect shot. He won an Encyclopaedia Britannica bronze medal for 'Thundering Hooves', a shot of thoroughbreds at Caymanas Park in full flight, where he lay flat on his stomach to get the right angle. Dowie even recounted sitting on his roof between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. to catch five distinct stages of a lunar eclipse in 1991.
Dowie started his photography career as a darkroom technician at a popular studio in downtown Kingston, but soon, a vacancy came up at The Gleaner and Dowie took the opportunity.
"When my shift was over, I used to ask any one of the photographers going out, 'Can I come with you?'" he said. "And I would ask them questions, and they never hesitated to pass on their knowledge." He would even do 'small' assignments by himself. Dowie learnt at the feet of veterans such as Aston Rhoden, and when a photographer position became available, it was Rhoden who convinced then editor-in-chief Theodore Sealy to "give him a try". The rest is history.
Though he could photograph any scene or occasion, Dowie admitted he loved sports. He excelled in the area and the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) duly named the Sports Photography award in his honour. His shots have been featured across the globe in exhibitions after being selected numerous times in the British Press Pictures of the Year. Locally, he received a Musgrave Bronze Medal, a Veteran Journalist Award from the PAJ during its 40th anniversary celebrations, and a national honour, the Order of Distinction in 1992, conferred by then Governor General Sir Howard Cooke.
Dowie leaves behind five children, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.