As Frank Brown was finishing his secondary education, he embarked on a tour of Europe to see the world in 1897 before he joined the Jesuits. Prior to leaving, his uncle Robert Browne, the Bishop of Cloyne, gave him his first camera and he was bitten by the photography bug.
Years later, his uncle also gifted him a ticket for a trip on the maiden voyage aboard the RMS Titanic that would forever change the impact of his photography on the world.
He made good use of his short time aboard, capturing images all over the Titanic’s deck and cabin areas. One of Father Brown’s photos was recreated by James Cameron for his movie, Titanic.
During his time aboard the ship, Father Browne befriended a millionaire who offered to pay his way to join them aboard the Titanic on its voyage to New York. He sought permission from his superiors using the ship’s telegram service. The reply he received was simple and direct, stating only “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL.”
Father Browne complied and bid his farewells upon arriving in Queenstown. As a result, Browne’s photographs provide us with the only visual record of what life aboard the Titanic was like before it sank. From the time he boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912 in Southampton, England until he disembarked in Queenstown, Ireland the next day, Father Browne took around 80 photos.
When the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, Father Browne’s photos made the front page of newspapers around the world. Kodak gave Browne free film for life, throughout which he continued his passion for photography while pursuing his service as a Jesuit. Over the course of his life, Father Browne captured around 42,000 photographs. He died in 1960.
Years later in 1986, Father Edward E. O’Donnell discovered his photos and negatives in a metal trunk in the Irish Jesuit archives. After the discovery, many books have been published with Father Browne’s photos, including Father Browne’s Titanic Album: A Passenger’s Photographs and Personal Memoir, now in its third edition.