The passing of John Bowring ACS

John Bowring at NAB 2011

I was deeply devastated to hear of the passing of my mentor and friend John Bowring.  John, or “brolga” as he was known to some of his friends had no equal when it came to passion and knowledge of the craft of cinematography.

I had my first ever full time job when I managed to land a job working in the prep department at Lemac in 1995.  You were a terrifying presence to me back then.   But you encouraged me to shoot….encouraged me to use short ends and use the secret Lemac processing code for cinevex that meant the processing was cheaper.  Then you’d transfer the film yourself on your beloved Marconi telecine….judging for yourself if I’d done a good job or not.  It was a tough way to learn my craft but it also made me want to impress and surprise you with what I was shooting.

You were always hungry for knowledge and so passionate about the craft of cinematography. You had so much energy and enthusiasm. I thought you would just go on forever.

I often used to work the Saturday shift at Lemac, and was never surprised to turn up in the morning to find you at the controls of the Marconi having being transferring film all night.  You’d be literally swaying in the seat as you reminded me without taking your eyes off the screen that film origination could be just as fast to turn around as video.  You’d stayed up all night to prove it.

I also never seemed to be able to leave on a Saturday at 12, the nominal closing time.  You’d always be there with some quick test or little shoot that you wanted help with.  It never occurred to you that it was past knock off.  There was stuff you wanted to know about and you assumed we’d want to know as much as you did.  You were so driven to learn and so driven to educate.  I remember you giving away light meters to students from VCA who’d dropped in to pick up a camera and happened to ask you a question about exposure.

Your famous NAB wrap-up’s and little “presenter” videos for SPAA, the ACS and SMPTE were as entertaining as they were informative. And you were always so generous with your knowledge.

Your passion for educating producers about the intricacies of 16×9 origination, timecode and 3 perf would be lost on most, but I saw the fire in your belly fuelling a constant striving to improve the craft of cinematography and production efficiencies, as well as getting better production value on screen.

You were also a genuine innovator, creating a unique 16mm multi cam camera system for “Murder Call” that brought about the introduction of longer 800′ magazines and return video monitoring on a  film camera.  I saw you build those from scratch.  Your on-board audio recording system using mini-dat when digital audio wasn’t even being used by locations sound recordists.

Whilst in pre-production for Offspring Season 2, just a few weeks ago, I happened to bump into you at the studio’s at Lemac.  You noticed I’d lost a bit of weight.

“geeze brawlster, don’t you know elephants have more friends than snakes.”

John, you have more friends than anyone else I know. No one has supported more young and old cinematographers and filmmakers than you.  You were always humble in the way you supported people and encouraged others.

I’m going to miss you and your friendship.  I’m going to miss dropping into Lemac for 5 minutes to drop something off and leaving 5 hours later, well after the doors had shut.

Enjoy your Auricon PRO 600’s, crunching the ice from your drambuie and may the 3 perf penelope mags never run out.

Thank you for making me the cinematographer I am today.

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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18 Responses to The passing of John Bowring ACS

  1. Ron Dorre says:

    I am also devastated to here the news tonight .
    Yes, he was a talented man, legend and mentor to me when I first started in the industry 25 years ago.
    He will be missed by all.
    Rest in peace John.

    Ron Dorre

  2. Alan Cole says:

    John, what a moving tribute to the man we all loved. best regards, Alan

    Vale John Bowring ACS

    It is with great sadness that we have learned about the sudden passing
    of John Bowring ACS. John is a legend in the industry and was not only
    one of the most respected cinematographers but was one of the most
    loved by all who came into contact with him. His passion and
    dedication to film knew no boundaries. This love of the moving image
    resulted in John and his wife Sue starting Lemac, the enormously
    successful and Australia’s largest wholly owned film and video
    equipment company with offices all over Australia. John was a true
    visionary who unreservedly embraced new technologies in spite of
    always proclaiming to be a “film” person. Through his dedicated staff
    at Lemac he encouraged everybody with his vast knowledge and
    approachable style. His personality and sense of humour meant that we
    all have our own wonderful memories of this generous and talented man.
    We will miss him greatly and he leaves an enormous legacy to the
    Australian film industry which will benefit all future Australian


    Alan Cole ACS
    President ACS Victorian Branch
    ACS National Vice President
    Mobile: 0418 178 219

  3. Wendy Rawady says:

    Oh John, we are sick with sadness over here (Mexico). Your tribute above is wonderful and typical of how John lived his life. We are glad we had final hugs in NAB at last. Please keep me posted of any news re funeral, send-off (there would have to be a massive gathering of sorts of his friends – how about at the MCG?). We will try to get back for the funeral. Love, Wendy & Dennis xxxxx

  4. Rest in peace our good friend. I terribly miss your ever curiously open eyes always looking for something to test, build, fix or just simple wander about life and film. To which your contribution will always be remembered and talked about with great appreciation.

  5. Niall povey says:

    He was a person of great heart always thinking on the next level above all of us .. I remeber when he first tried to tell people that time code on
    Film was the way to go ! And everyone was not sure , he was covinced it was the way to go …. And as we all no he was right ! We were just a little slower to come to the same point as him!!! He was always the first to use the latest or the better way of doing things… Look out god or where ever he has gone you are in for a fun ride !!!! John . B ( brolgra ) you where never going to stay here long you where always ment for bigger things . Go forth and and teach the rest of the worthy , and say high to bob
    for me ….

  6. My wife Karen and I had a dinner with John at the Panasonic function on Monday at NAB. He was full of life taking photos and video (with his 5D!) of everyone and still engaging us with his divergent views on digital and film. One thing John was passionate about was life itself, and he will sorely missed, both professionally and personally. Condolences to Sue and the family.

    Peter & Karen

  7. Jasmine Lord says:

    My deepest condolences John.

  8. Alex McPhee says:

    My association with John goes back 38 years. We first met at the Bridge Hotel when I was working for Michael Willesee and he was working as a film editor at Channel 9, and remained close friends ever since. He was the guru. Whenever I had a query he was the first person I rang. He considered any query thoughtfully and always came up with the right answer. He was extremely generous, and the Australian film industry will not be the same now that he has gone. Robbie’s and my love and condolences to Sue, Jack & Kate

  9. Wayne McPherson says:

    John was and still is my inspiration to pursue the craft of shooting great pictures, after every conversation with him you would always walk away knowing more and thinking to yourself what a fantastic fella, condolences to Sue and family. You will be missed by many.

  10. Soren Phillips says:

    For all the guys and girls who worked closely with JB, especially his assistants, he was a father figure. Knowing we won’t ever be able to engage with JB as we’ve always done is a devastating blow and saddens me completely. The tributes are going to flow thick and fast from all corners of the globe showing just how much of a special influence this man was on people who shared his passions – at whatever level. It’s no consolation but, to me, his premature departure just cements his genuinely legendary status.

    Jack, Kate and Sue we are all crying with you.

  11. Stephen Shelley says:

    Goodbye John, Master Craftsman unparalleled, I can’t believe you’re gone. Your love for the craft of film-making, your mastery of its technology, and your passion for passing on that craft, has made us all strive to do everything that much better, and touched in some way everyone in the Australian film and television industry.

    Deep condolences to Sue, Jack, Kate, and to everyone at Lemac.

    Who’s left to coax those magic pictures from Bob’s old Marconi now?

  12. Anna Bazzi Backhouse says:

    Thank you John for your words and stories of JB – insightful and heartfelt. Lemac is a unique place thanks to John and Sue Bowring. I know Scott (my husband) and the crew in Sydney are doing their best to continue John’s amazing work – a generous and visionary soul whose contribution to Australia’s film industry was unprecedented. Clearly there will be many cinematographers mourning his loss for quite sometime. We have lost a true friend – rest in peace beloved JB.

  13. Matt Dowling says:

    I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about JB’s passing. A true larger than life character I met as a 22 year old whipper snapper in 1997, John was always a great supporter of up and coming talent, in fact there should be a John Bowring award set up for up and coming cinematographers in Australia.

    Always there to lend a helping hand wherever he could and for all of us at Blackmagic Design, that was often over the last 10 years – I can’t remember a single time when he did not just say “no worries”

    I am very sad that I won’t be able to have a laugh with him and see that cheeky grin behind that beard or have those great technical sessions with him.

    A true legend of the industry and one of the most genuine and nicest people I have ever met – they just don’t make em like JB anymore. We will miss you mate.

    Deepest condolences to Sue, Jack, Kate, and to everyone at Lemac.

  14. I am in shock. Just saw the news. John and I had a great conversation at NAB on Tuesday as we have had going back too many years to recall. A lovely man, a wonderful cinematographer, and now, with heartfelt condolences for his family, a friend who has been taken from all of us too soon, much too soon. A sad day indeed.

  15. Pingback: The passing of John Bowring ACS | johnbrawley « A Tribute to Brolga

  16. Ed Hobbs says:

    Words like generosity, brilliance, mentor and innovator fall short in describing this great man, whose loss has dealt a devastating blow to our hearts and industry. John was a magical person with an unyielding capacity to give and keep giving to all he came to know and work with. For John Bowring work, problem solving and enriching the working lives of his colleagues, contemporaries and proteges were their own reward. He always sought a better way of doing things, of improving his skills and those of others, never falling short of the exacting standards he set for himself and delivered to others.
    Will never forget the joyous laugh, the one liners and the boundless energy that his big heart produced day after day, year after year. The void left in his absence can never, ever be filled and is profoundly felt by all of us who were lucky enough to know the great Mr Bowring.

  17. Dale Bromley says:

    When something like John’s death comes so suddenly from left field, so utterly unexpectedly, it really can shake a community. Often it makes us think about time; for me it was about the “first time I saw John… where I was when I met him”.

    I remember at a meeting of the original Institute Of Motion Picture Technology held at the then Department of Agriculture Film Unit, a young bloke had simply wandered into the room and was talking loudly. It was John and he’d just left school.

    The meeting finished and John told the assembled die hards that he was looking for work and he reckoned television would be the way to go. Besides he really liked the thought of working with film. He asked for any help and someone knew someone, who knew someone else who might be able to get him in the door at Channel Nine. “Probably just dragging cables mate, but you gotta learn from the ground up”.

    So my memory is thinking what could this brash teenage kid possibly have to offer the film and television business. Could he really just walk in and get a job…just like that?

    How could anyone in the room that night have possibly predicted that this young fellow, now armed with a Bendigo Street contact name and phone number, would become a universally loved and admired icon of this business.

    How damned unfair that he is now lost to us all. How very very sad.

  18. Pingback: Aaton Delta Penelope | johnbrawley

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