They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Reverend Francis Browne took photos of the Titanic that became a historic treasure. He photographed passengers in the first class, but he also took snapshots of those in the third class as well. By profession, Browne was a Jesuit priest, but his favorite pastime was photography.
With all of the interesting sites on the Titanic, being on this majestic ship was probably every photographers dream. Like every other passenger on the Titanic, Browne believed that a disaster was unlikely to take place. He thought that Titanic would safely go to New York. As for the travelers that he photographed, he felt that they would be sound as well.
When Titanic sank into the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, he most likely prayed for all those who perished and for the survivors. His photos of the Titanic were published worldwide in prestigious and newsworthy publications. Titanic Album of Father Browne was one of his most notable albums. Destiny had turned him into a photojournalist.
Browne never really made any plans to travel on the Titanic. Robert Browne, his uncle, gave him a ticket to the maiden ocean trip of the Titanic as a present. He boarded the Titanic during the afternoon on April 10, 1912. Since he was fascinated by all the sites that he saw on this beautiful ship, this gifted photographer often used his camera to capture special moments.
While on the Titanic, Browne became friends with an American millionaire couple. They even said that they would pay for Browne’s fare to New York and back if he would continue to be their guest. He telegraphed his supervisor to ask for his consent, but his response was a resounding no.
Maybe he was a little disappointed, but the supervisor saved his life. If he would have stayed on the Titanic, he probably would have perished. The world would have lost a man who committed his life to helping others. Thank God that Browne got off the ship. Browne went back to Dublin to proceed with his theological studies.
Even before the Titanic disaster, he already knew the meaning of loss. His mother, Brigid, died eight days after his birth. His father, James, died when he was a boy. Robert Browne, his uncle, who was the bishop of Cloyne, raised Browne. In 1897, Robert gave Francis his first camera, and he developed into his lifelong hobby of photography. Robert raised Francis well and provided him with a good education.
Browne attended many colleges. When he attended the Royal University of Dublin, one of his classmates was none other than the renowned writer James Joyce. Joyce was so inspired by Browne that he even included him as, Mr. Browne the Jesuit, in his classic work, Finnegan’s Wake.
On July 31, 1915, Browne was ordained and made it his priority to help others. In 1916, he traveled to Europe to become a member of the Irish Guards as a man of the cloth. He was injured more than once. One time he even suffered a serious wound during a gas attack. He proudly served his nation of Ireland until the spring of 1920. For his heroism, he received the Military Cross and Bar for his bravery in battle. During his military service, he continued to take photos. His album, “Watch on the Rhine” contains snapshots of World War I.
Browne took 42,000 photographs, but all of his Titanic photos were not published during his lifespan. After his death in 1960, Father Edward E. O’Donnell found Browne’s negatives in a big metal box in 1986. There were more than 1,000 photos of the Titanic. O’Donnel had simply uncovered a historic time capsule, and he wanted the world to see all of these photos.
After Browne’s death, the Centenary Edition of Father Browne’s Titanic Album was published, which became a best seller. Yale University Press also printed a volume of his best photographs called, Francis Browne: A Life Through the Lens. Many of his books of photos became bestsellers and are still popular today.
As he put his hands together in prayer, Father Browne healed the world. Those same gifted hands took the camera and earned him a place in history as a renowned photographer, especially for his photos of the Titanic.