Not only was he a priest of high regard, he was also an awarded chaplain during World War I. But that’s not what he really was known for, it was Father Francis Browne’s “unerring eye” in capturing photographs that separated him from the pack.
Man of faith, decorated chaplain of the Irish Guards and a well-known photographer. Many things can be used to describe the life of Father Francis Browne who was considered as one of the best photographers who hailed from Ireland.
Born on January 3, 1880 in Cork, Ireland, Francis Browne grew up without a mother. Brigid Browne died 9 days after Francis was born. Francis also lost his father James Browne to a swimming accident when he was just 9. His uncle Robert Browne who was then Bishop of Cloyne, took in the young Francis and supported him through his studies. Francis’ Uncle Robert gave him his first camera that he used to document his travels across Europe.
Francis Browne joined the Jesuits upon his return to Ireland from his trip and in 1912, another gift from his uncle came. It was a ticket to board the RMS Titanic. Aboard the ship, Browne took what is considered to be his most important images as a photographer. Browne was supposed to be on the Titanic on the day it sank but a terse command from his higher ups prevented him from going on the cruise.
Browne’s photographs of the “unsinkable” Titanic were rare views into what was aboard the mighty ship before it foundered in the seas. His Titanic photographs are but few of the many negatives that were discovered years after his death.
Browne was awarded the Military Cross and Bar for his valor in combat during his time with the Irish Guards in 1935. He took one of his most iconic war photographs during World War I which he called Watch on the Rhine. The Irish priest and photographer died on July 7, 1960. He was 80.