Marilyn Stafford

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Marilyn Stafford (born 1925) is a British photographer.[1] She worked mainly as a freelance photojournalist based in Paris in the 1950s and early 1960s, then in London, travelling to Lebanon, Tunisia, India and elsewhere.[2][3][4] Her work was published in The Observer and other newspapers. Stafford also worked as a fashion photographer in Paris, where she photographed models in the streets in everyday situations, rather than in the more usual opulent surroundings.[2]

Stafford has published two books of photographs, Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey Through Lebanon in the Sixties (1998), and Stories in Pictures: A Photographic Memoir 1950 (2014) of Paris in the 1950s. She has had solo exhibitions, some being a retrospective and some being of a single subject: Indira Gandhi, and Parisian slum children.

Life and work[edit]

Stafford was born Marilyn Gerson[5] in 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.[2][6]

At age seven she was selected to train to be an actor with the Cleveland Play House.[7] Later she moved to New York City to act and had small roles Off-Broadway[4][6] and in early television.[8][7]

In 1948, Stafford took her first portrait of Albert Einstein, for friends who were making a documentary film about him.[2][8] In order to gain experience in photography, she worked as an assistant to the fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo.[8]

In December 1948[6] she joined a friend in moving to Paris.[8] For a short while she sang with an ensemble at Chez Carrère, a dinner club off the Champs-Élysées.[3] There she met and became friends with the war photographer and photojournalist Robert Capa.[4] Her friend the writer Mulk Raj Anand introduced her to another photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who she also became friends with.[4] Cartier-Bresson encouraged her to take photographs on the streets of Paris,[3] so she took buses to the end of the line and made photos such as of children (some candid, some not) in the slum of Cité Lesage-Bullourde (near Place de la Bastille, and since cleared to make way for Opéra Bastille); and in the neighbourhood of Boulogne-Billancourt,[3][2] in 1950.[9] In 1956 she married Robin Stafford, a British foreign correspondent for the Daily Express working in Paris.[5] In 1958, whilst five or six months pregnant with their daughter,[8] Stafford went on a personal assignment to Tunisia to document and publicise the plight of Algerian refugees fleeing France's scorched earth aerial bombardment in the Algerian War.[6] Back in Paris she showed the pictures to Cartier-Bresson, who made a selection and sent them to The Observer, which published two on its front page.[3][2]

In Paris Stafford also worked as a fashion photographer for a public relations agency, photographing various types of clothing.[10]:37 Fashion photography of haute couture (custom-fitted) clothing at that time was normally modelled in opulent surroundings so as to convey a sense of luxury. In photographing the new ready-to-wear clothing of the time, Stafford instead took a documentary approach, photographing models out in the streets, suggesting more down-to-earth situations.[2]

In the late 1950s her husband's work sent the couple to Rome,[9] then in the early 1960s to Beirut for over a year. Stafford travelled extensively in Lebanon, photographing people and places, later collected in her book Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey through Lebanon in the Sixties (1998).[11]

Stafford and her husband separated.[5] In the mid-1960s she moved to London, working as a photographer in various roles. She worked freelance as an international photojournalist for The Observer on both commissions and self-assigned projects,[2] one of few women photographers working for national newspapers at that time.[6] In 1972 she spent a month photographing Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.[12][13] She worked as a stills photographer on feature films and commercials, including on All Neat in Black Stockings (1969).[14]

Throughout her career she has made portraits, including those of Cartier-Bresson, Edith Piaf,[3] Italo Calvino, Le Corbusier, Renato Guttuso, Carlo Levi, Sharon Tate, Donovan, Christopher Logue, Lee Marvin,[15] Joanna Lumley, David Frost, and Twiggy.[16]

She now (2017) lives in West Sussex, England.[2][8]

Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award[edit]

The Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award was launched on International Women’s Day 2017. It is to be granted annually to a professional woman photographer working on a documentary photo essay which addresses a social, environmental, economic or cultural issue. The winner receives £1000 and mentoring by Stafford and FotoDocument, an organisation that uses documentary photography to draw attention to positive social and environmental activity.[17][18]

The 2017 winner was Rebecca Conway, with honorable mentions for Ranita Roy, Monique Jaques, and Lynda Gonzalez.[19]

The 2018 winner was Özge Sebzeci and the runners up were Mary Turner and Simona Ghizzoni.[20]

Publications by Stafford[edit]

  • Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey through Lebanon in the Sixties. London: Saqi, 1998. ISBN 978-0-86356-099-6. With a preface by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, "Marilyn Stafford's Theatre of the Unexpected".
  • Stories in Pictures: A Photographic Memoir 1950. Shoreham, UK: Shoreham Wordfest, 2014. ISBN 978-0-9930446-0-1. With a foreword by Simon Brett and an introduction by Nina Emett. Edition of 50 copies.
  • Photographic Memories – Lost Corners of Paris: The Children of Cité Lesage-Bullourde and Boulogne-Billancourt, 1949-1954. 2017. Texts in English and French by Julia Winckler and Adrienne Chambon, photographs by Stafford. Exhibition catalogue.[n 1][9]

Solo exhibitions[edit]


  • I Shot Einstein (2016) – eight-minute documentary film about Stafford, directed by Dan Evans and Merass Sadek, produced by Tilt.[n 2][29] Shown at the Artemis Women In Action Film Festival 2017 (Santa Monica, CA);[30] Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival 2017 (Middlebury, VT);[31] FilmBath 2017 (Bath, UK);[32] Paris Lift-Off Festival Online 2017;[33] and Cine-City 2017 (Brighton, UK).[34]


Stafford's work is held in the following permanent collection:


  1. ^ A PDF of the exhibition catalogue can be viewed here within the website of Julia Winckler.
  2. ^ The film can be viewed here at Vimeo


  1. ^ Willsher, Kim (4 December 2017). "How a chance meeting with Einstein led to the accidental start of a unique photography career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thorpe, Vanessa (30 April 2017). "The photographer who captured a time of change". The Observer. London. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Whitmore, Greg (29 April 2017). "The chic and the shabby: Paris in the 1950s by Marilyn Stafford". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Marilyn Stafford – Stories in Pictures 1950-60". International Times. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c "Robin Stafford, Journalist – Obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Lucy Bell Gallery exhibits works by photo-journalist Marilyn Stafford" ArtDaily, 11 May 2017. Accessed 30 May 2017
  7. ^ a b c d "Photo-journalist's portraits go on show". Shoreham Herald. Shoreham-by-Sea. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Gilson, Edwin (21 April 2017). "The extraordinary life of photographer Marilyn Stafford". The Argus (Brighton). Brighton and Hove. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Julia Winckler (2017). Photographic Memories – Lost Corners of Paris: The Children of Cité Lesage-Bullourde and Boulogne-Billancourt (PDF). Alliance Française de Toronto or Julia Winckler. 
  10. ^ Marilyn Stafford (2014). Stories in Pictures: A Photographic Memoir 1950. Shoreham Wordfest. ISBN 978-0-9930446-0-1. 
  11. ^ Børre Ludvigsen (26 November 1998). "Marilyn Stafford: Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey through Lebanon in the Sixties". Al Mashriq. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "On the occasion of Indira Gandhi Birth Anniversary TNC Presents: Exhibition: Indira and Her India- India Remembere 1971 to 1981 - Marilyn Stafford" Nehru Centre, London. Accessed 30 May 2017
  13. ^ a b "Madam and Marilyn: access all areas". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Calcutta. 24 November 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  14. ^ "All Neat in Black Stockings (1969)" IMDb. Accessed 31 May 2017
  15. ^ "Portraits". Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "A glimpse into history at Arundel Museum's exhibit". Littlehampton Gazette. Littlehampton. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  17. ^ "FotoReportage Award" FotoDocument. Accessed 31 May 2017
  18. ^ "Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award in association with FotoDocument" Photoworks, 9 March 2017. Accessed 1 June 2017
  19. ^ "Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award Winner" FotoDocument, 16 June 2017. Accessed 19 June 2017
  20. ^ "2018 FotoAward Winners Announced / Rebecca Conway 'Valley of the Shadow' launch". FotoDocument. Retrieved 2018-07-13. 
  21. ^ "Photographic memories of lost spaces : The Children of Cité Lesage-Bullourde and Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris 1949-1954" Alliance Française de Toronto. Accessed 1 June 2017
  22. ^ Julia Winckler. "Marilyn Stafford, Alliance Francaise". Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  23. ^ Mouch, Lila (13 March 2017). "Pour que les enfants du Paris de l'après-guerre ne soient plus "invisibles"". L'Express (Toronto). Toronto. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  24. ^ Mouch, Lila (3 April 2017). "Quand les rues du Ward appartenaient aux enfants". L'Express (Toronto). Toronto. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  25. ^ "Exposition de photos rares de la photographe américaine Marylin Stafford". 7 March 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  26. ^ "Marilyn Stafford - Stories in Pictures 1950-60: 6th May - 24th June 2017" Lucy Bell Fine Art. Accessed 30 May 2017
  27. ^ "Marilyn Stafford - Stories In Pictures 1950-1960". The List. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  28. ^ "Marilyn Stafford: Stories in Pictures 1950 – 1960: June 27 @ 11:00 am - July 8 @ 6:00 pm". Art Bermondsey Project Space. Retrieved 3 August 2017. 
  29. ^ "I Shot Einstein (2016)" IMDb. Accessed 2 June 2017
  30. ^ "2017 Streaming Schedule - Artemis Women in Action Film Festival". Artemis Women In Action Film Festival. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  31. ^ "2017 Festival Schedule". Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. Retrieved 9 October 2017. 
  32. ^ "2017 Schedule - Visages Villages". FilmBath. Retrieved 9 October 2017. 
  33. ^ "Paris Lift-Off Online 2017". Lift-Off Festivals. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  34. ^ "Brighton Screenings Documentary". Cine-city. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  35. ^ "RIBA Architecture Image Library". RIBAPix. Royal Institute of British Architects. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 

External links[edit]