Bill Owens was born in San Josè, California, in 1938. After obtaining a degree in Industrial Arts in 1964, he spent a couple of years travelling between India and Jamaica. It was here that he developed an interest in anthropological and social photography. From 1968 onwards, he began working as a photojournalist for a number of magazines in the Bay Area. These experiences gave rise to his first photographic project, Suburbia (1973), in which he dedicated himself to documenting Californian suburbs. Following the success of this work, Owens published Our Kind of People in 1975, focusing his attention on political groups, religious organisations, sportsmen and women, school children and their behaviour. In 1977, Working (I do it for Money) was published: an ironic and at the same time crude photographic collection; a social picture of 9 to 5ers. In 1976, he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and following that two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. From 1978 to 1982, he worked as a freelance photographer, having work published in ‘Life’ and ‘Newsweek’.
He gave up professional photography in the early 80s to become a beer producer. In 1983 he opened ‘Buffalo Bill’s Brewery’ and three years later he founded the ‘American Brewer Magazine’. In 1999, he once again dedicated himself to photography full-time. At the moment Owens is working on Leisure: Americans at play, a project he began in the 70s. This series of work deals with Americans’ relationship with sport, in particular ‘special’ events like the Indianapolis 500, the races between gigantic trucks, wrestling bouts and many other competitive events.
Since 1996, Bill Owens' work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Josè Museum of Art, the Salon de la Photo in Paris, the Centre Photographic de l’Ile de France, the Robert Koch gallery in San Francisco, the Greg Kucera gallery in Seattle and at the Howard Greenberg and Mattex Marks galleries in New York. The following institutions have his work in their permanent collections: the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of American Art and the Center for Creative Photography in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, the San Josè Museum of Modern Art, the Bibliotèque National de Paris, the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art and in numerous private collections.