Titanic enthusiasts have many reasons to thank Father Frank Browne. Not only him, but his superior who summoned him back to his duties rather than permitting him to complete Titanic’s voyage. During his short time on board Titanic, the 32 year old Jesuit priest captured some of the most enduring and iconic images of the ship, images upon which our modern-day knowledge of the interior of Titanic and the atmosphere on board are based. Father Browne’s recall to base saved this invaluable photographic collection from a watery grave.
Father Browne was so much more than an amateur snapper. The composition of his pictures is on a par with RJ Welch, the official photographer for Harland and Wolff who chronicled Titanic’s early life during construction in Belfast. The fact that he has captured real people going about their business on board ship, and that the majority of those people were dead a few days later gives huge resonance to the photographs he took during those few days.
He knew the value of what he had captured. In the Spring of 1913 he contacted the White Star Line’s advertising department to seek permission to use photographs and further materials in his lectures on Titanic. The reply he received is astonishing. “We shall be glad to obtain photographs of the illustrations to which you allude in the Olympic booklet but shall appreciate it if in any lectures you deliver you will abstain from any reference to the Titanic as you will easily understand we do not wish the memory of this calamity to be perpetuated.” As it transpired, a good story could not be kept down and Father Browne’s pictures were central to its telling over the last century.
From Titanic Stories