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Retrospective Marilyn Stafford exhibition goes on tour

Four decades of work by photography Marilyn Stafford is on show in A Life in Photography, a retrospective exhibition.

Indira Gandhi boarding a plane, New Delhi, 1972
Indira Gandhi boarding plane, New Delhi, 1972 © Marilyn Stafford

The first retrospective exhibition of US photographer Marilyn Stafford is now on tour.

A Life in Photography encompasses the most comprehensive display of the photographer’s work to date.

Works come from an international archive spanning four decades.

They include celebrity portraits, fashion shoots, street photography, humanitarian stories and newspaper reportage.

The exhibition is on tour from now until November 2022.

It provides a reflective and engaging look at a period of 20th-century history and previously unseen images.

A portrait of Twiggy with the press in London, 1960, by Marilyn Stafford
Twiggy with press, London, 1960 © Marilyn Stafford

A Life in Photography

A Life in Photography is curated by Nina Emett in collaboration with Stafford’s daughter Lina Clerke.

It is on display at Farleys House & Gallery, East Sussex, until October 31.

The exhibition will then move to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from February 26 to May 8, 2022.

This will include a range of ephemera from Stafford’s archive, recordings and an additional hanging of silver gelatin framed prints.

The final stop of the tour is Dimbola Museum & Galleries, Isle of Wight, from June 15 to September 17, 2022.

An accompanying retrospective book of her work, Marilyn Stafford: A Life in Photography, will be available from from October 2021.

This includes an essay by Jennifer Higgie.

Black and white image of Baalbeck village, Lebanon, 1960 © Marilyn Stafford
Baalbeck village, Lebanon, 1960 © Marilyn Stafford

Marilyn Stafford in her own words

“I think of myself as a storyteller, speaking through the lens of my camera,” says Stafford.

“I have always endeavoured to find a way to bring awareness to the public eye, to tell stories that are socially relevant and to create change for the better.

“As a young, impressionable child of the 1930’s Great Depression in the US, I witnessed poverty-stricken people and early holocaust refugees coming to our door, selling everything from steel wool cleaning pads to fine embroidered linens.

“I also remember seeing Dorothea Lange’s powerful photographs of migrants fleeing the severe drought in the Dust Bowl states and I understood there and then how photography could make a difference.

“During my life I have lived through periods of extraordinary change and have been able to capture both trivial and momentous events of my time.

“I have been very fortunate during my life to have had good friends and also good luck along the way.”

Portrait of Marilyn Stafford in Lebanon 1960
Marilyn Stafford in Lebanon 1960

A remarkable career

Stafford’s photography career got off to a remarkable start when she was invited to take stills of Albert Einstein.

Since then, she has accumulated an eclectic body of work, spanning from 1948-1980.

This includes portraits of famous and influential figures such as Edith Piaf, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mulk Raj Anand, Albert Finney, Twiggy and Joanna Lumley.

Stafford photographed Francesca Serio – the illiterate Sicilian peasant woman who took the Mafia to trial for murdering her son.

In the 1950s she engaged in street photography documenting the Parisian children of the Cité Lesage-Bullourde neighbourhood living in slum housing as well as the bustling, and sometimes downtrodden, street life of Boulogne-Billancourt.

Stafford has witnessed some significant, and sometimes turbulent, periods of modern social and political history.

She photographed refugees in Tunisia fleeing the Algerian War of Independence in 1958 gaining her front page of the Observer.

She captured Lebanon in the 1960s a decade before civil war would ravage the country.

These images were later published by Saqi books.

Stafford 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 has shot fashion runways for newspapers and magazines and run her own fashion photography agency.

In 2020, Stafford was awarded the Chairman’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Picture Editors’ Guild.

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