In memory of photographer Marilyn Stafford
5/11/25 – 2/1/23
We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of pioneering photographer Marilyn Stafford yesterday. (2 January 2023).
We were honoured to hold a retrospective of Marilyn’s outstanding work last year at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. She attended the opening and gave a fascinating talk about her work, inspiration and experiences as one of the few women news photographers of her time.
CEO of Brighton & Hove Museums Hedley Swain said: “It was such a pleasure to meet Marilyn last year.
“She was still extremely sharp and it was fascinating to hear her memories and stories about her iconic photographs.
“Marilyn photographed some of the world’s most famous people from Albert Einstein to Indira Gandhi but she also captured ordinary lives from the slums of Paris to Algerian refugees. Her work remains as a legacy to a great artist.”
Marilyn Stafford’s photography career got off to a remarkable start when she was invited, as a young woman, to take stills of Albert Einstein. Since then, she accumulated an eclectic body of work, spanning from 1948-1980, including further portraits of famous and influential figures such as Edith Piaf, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mulk Raj Anand, Indira Gandhi, Albert Finney, Twiggy and Joanna Lumley. She also photographed many ordinary people like the illiterate Sicilian peasant woman, Francesca Serio, who took the Mafia to trial for murdering her son.
Stafford also engaged in street photography, mainly in the 1950s, documenting the Parisian children of the Cité Lesage-Bullourde neighbourhood living in slum housing conditions as well as the bustling, and sometimes downtrodden, street life of Boulogne-Billancourt.
Stafford witnessed significant, and sometimes turbulent, periods of modern social and political history – she photographed Algerian refugees in Tunisia fleeing the Algerian War of Independence in 1958 which gained her front page of the Observer; she captured Lebanon in the 1960s during a time of peace before civil war would ravage the country a decade later; she created a unique and intimate documentary about Indira Gandhi, India’s first and only woman Prime Minister, during India’s intervention in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
Alongside her humanitarian focused photography, Stafford took advantage of opportunities open to her as a female photographer, including commissioned portraits and fashion runways for British, American and international newspapers and magazines, as well as co-running her own fashion photography agency. Her work has been included on magazine and newspaper front covers, including the Observer. In 2020, Stafford was awarded the Chairman’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Picture Editors’ Guild.