ISLE OF WIGH.-
The first ever retrospective exhibition of US born Sussex based photographer, Marilyn Stafford (b.1925), encompassing the most comprehensive display of the photographers work to date. Works come from an international archive spanning four decades, and include celebrity portraits, fashion shoots, street photography, humanitarian stories and newspaper reportage.
This exhibition, A Life in Photography provides a reflective and engaging look at a period of 20th century history through the photographers unique gaze. It features many of the stories from her career, which remain untold, with images never seen before by the public and specially organised expanded content such as a film about Marilyns life and more. This special touring exhibition has been curated by Nina Emett in collaboration with Staffords daughter Lina Clerke and was previously exhibited at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
Marilyn Staffords 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 has 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 has also photographed many ordinary people like the illiterate Sicilian peasant woman, Francesca Serio, who took the Mafia to trial for murdering her son.
Stafford has 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 has witnessed some 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 which was published by Saqi books; she created a unique and intimate documentary about Indira Gandhi, Indias first and only woman Prime Minister, during Indias 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 Chairmans Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Picture Editors' Guild.
I think of myself as a storyteller, speaking through the lens of my camera. 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 1930s 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 Langes 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. --Marilyn Stafford
It has been a wonderful privilege and adventure to curate the exhibition Marilyn Stafford - A Life in Photography and to compile/edit the accompanying retrospective book of the same name. At times, I truly felt like I was behind the lens with her, indulging in poignant vignettes of life from a bygone era - whether in the picturesque streets of 1950s Paris, the Tunisian refugee camps of the Algerian War of Independence in 1958 or on Indira Gandhis speaking tour of India following her heroic intervention in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. I could see reminiscences in style from some of the greats of her time - a geometrically formed André Kertesz, a decisively caught Henri Cartier-Bresson, a painterly but photojournalistic Homai Vyarawalla. But mostly I could see Marilyn Stafford. The work reveals a devilish eye for detail, a curiosity to pop the hood and look behind the scenes, a huge respect for form and structure, a penchant for humorous juxtaposition, an emotional connection to whoever lies beyond the shutter curtain, and there is always an intriguing storyline. said Nina Emett Curator/Editor of Marilyn Stafford - A Life in Photography and Photographer/Director, FotoDocument
Dr Brian Hinton, executive chair of Dimbola, We are honoured to show a major retrospective of Marilyns extraordinary life journey. She is undoubtably one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.