Bill Owens (photographer)

Bill Owens (born September 25, 1938) is an American photographer, photojournalist, brewer and editor living in Hayward, California. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 1976[1] and two NEA Grants, he is best known for his photographs of suburban domestic scenes taken in the East Bay and published in the book Suburbia in 1973. According to The New York Sun, "Bill Owens is one of the very few photographers to have shot people in the suburbs to any great extent. There is a long, long list of photographers who made their reputations shooting in cities and a shorter but impressive list who made their names with studies of rural communities, but Mr. Owens is uniquely associated with suburbanites living in the tract housing developments that absorbed 60 million Americans in the decades following World War II."

Bill Owens
Born (1938-09-25) September 25, 1938
Known forSuburbia


Owens was born in San Jose, California.[2] In 1973, he released the photographic book Suburbia, whose pictures showed American suburban life in the town of Livermore, where he lived at the time. The Los Angeles Times commented that the book “rouses pity, contempt, laughter and self-recognition. Owens’s influence was immense during the 1970s especially in respect to the kind of portraiture that shows the middle class.” In 2001, Suburbia was included in Andrew Roth’s THE BOOK OF 101 BOOKS: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century.

He has published other photographic books, and his photographs have been exhibited internationally and are in many collections including The Museum of Modern Art, Berkeley Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Art and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Owens is a contemporary of photographers Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore and Lee Friedlander.

Owens founded Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward in 1983, one of the first brewpubs to open in California since prohibition.[3]

In 2003, Bill Owens founded the American Distilling Institute, a professional membership organization and publishing house "to promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling."[4] As the president of ADI, Owens has become one of the leading spokesmen of the craft distilling movement.[5]


  • 1973 Suburbia (revised 1999, ISBN 1-881270-40-8)
  • 1975 Our Kind of People: American Groups and RitualsISBN 0-87932-084-2
  • 1977 Working: I Do It For the MoneyISBN 0-671-22820-X
  • 1982 How to Build a Small Brewery: Draft Beer in Ten Days - ISBN 978-0960246274
  • 2005 LeisureISBN 1-58418-074-9
  • 2008 "Bill Owens. Anthology", by Claudia Zanfi, with a novel by AM Homes (Damiani Editore), with more than 150 iconic images and afterword by BIll Owens.
  • 2014 The Village: Bill Owens - Jamaica Peace Corps Photographs 1964-66, with an Introduction by Victoria Sheridan. Afterword by Geir Jordahl. Eds. Geir Jordahl, Kate Jordahl, and John Thacker (True North Editions, 2014). ISBN 978-0-9899915-1-3


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2006-12-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Bill Owens Biography". Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  3. "About American Distilling Institute". American Distilling Institute. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  4. Garbee, Jenn (28 August 2012). "Q&A With Bill Owens: The American Distilling Institute Founder's Cross-Country Road Trip, Industry Trends + His Favorite Spirit Stops". LA Weekly. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  • The Washington Post: "The American Dream, Circa 1970: Suburbia Photographs Capture How Much We've Changed", by Frank Ahrens, March 24, 2000
  • The New York Times: "A Vision of Suburban Bliss Edged With Irony" by Jeffrey Kastner, March 19, 2000
  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Bill Owens' Unrelenting Eye Defines a Generation" - April 9, 1999
  • The New York Sun: "The Shame of the Suburbs", by William Meyers, August 11, 2005
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