See History Through the Eyes of Photographer Marilyn Stafford as Three Exhibitions Celebrate Her Work This Autumn

Historic fashion photos from the swinging 60s and iconic portraits of Albert Einstein, Sir Richard Attenborough, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Indira Gandhi, Sir Roland Penrose, Twiggy, Joanna Lumley and Le Corbusier are included in the three retrospective exhibitions by American-born photographer Marilyn Stafford (b.1925) set to go on show this Autumn across the UK.

Marilyn, born in the US but now settled on the south coast of England after a life spent travelling and shooting in Europe, the Middle East and beyond, will present one touring historical fashion exhibition and one non-touring historical portrait exhibition, both of which include showing newly excavated and previously unseen sections of her photographic archive in three locations – from an established London gallery to a shopping centre in Hull as part of an international festival.

Her photographic career – which covers a diverse portfolio from fashion shoots to photojournalism in the Middle East and North Africa for international publications including The Observer – launched in New York in 1948 when she was asked to photograph Albert Einstein by friends making a film about him. From there on, her career took her across the world, starting in Paris in the 1950s. There, friends and Magnum founders Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson were instrumental in shaping her work. While completing commissions from a number of Paris fashion houses, she also photographed street children living in one of the city’s notorious slums.

In 1958 Marilyn traveled to Tunisia to document the Algerian refugees fleeing France’s ‘Scorched Earth’ attacks following a period of French colonialism in Algeria (50 years ago this year), and in the early 1960s she went on to travel widely in Lebanon. In the mid 1960s she settled in London, where, as one of a handful of women photographers, she helped pave the way for future female photographers working on Fleet Street as well as running her own photography agency. Her photographic work spans the 1950s to the 1980s. Many years later, in 2017, she founded the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award, facilitated by FotoDocument and supported by Olympus, to highlight the work of female photographers all over the world who focus on under-reported social or environmental issues.

Marilyn Stafford: A Fashion Retrospective – From Haute Couture to the Birth of Prêt-à-Porter

  • Hull International Photography Festival (5 – 28 October)
  • Lucy Bell Gallery, Hastings (27 October – 17 November)

This exhibition, curated by Alan Raw for Hull International Photography festival and co-curated by Lucy Bell and Nina Emett of FotoDocument for Lucy Bell Gallery, is a retrospective of Marilyn Stafford’s fashion portraits, taken during her remarkable photographic career. Stafford photographed many iconic designers, including Biba and Chanel, for international publications and helped to illustrate the fashion of London and Paris from the 1950s through the 1970s. In Hull the work will be displayed in the Princes Quay Shopping Centre, allowing passers-by to view some of Marilyn’s most iconic work within the setting of modern fashion brands and shops.

Marilyn Stafford: Silent Echoes – Portraits from the Archive

  • After Nyne Gallery, London (18 – 30 October)

This exhibition, curated by Nina Emett of FotoDocument and supported by Olympus, features Marilyn’s portraits which are some of her most iconic work, spanning a wide range of international household names across fashion, politics, art, film and literature. The exhibition also includes lesser known figures – but equally deserving of a place in history – including Francesca Serio, the first Italian person to bring the mafia to trial for killing her son or Algerian mother who fled to Tunisia during Algeria’s War of Independence featured in The Observer 50 years ago in 1958.

“I am delighted to be able to bring my work to public view this Autumn in three very different locations across the UK. It’s thrilling to have gone through my archives in more depth following a successful grant from Arts Council England and to show many of my photographs for the first time. These exhibitions span almost half a century of travelling and shooting, from fashion to well known figures to the social and political. They bring back so many wonderful memories,” says Marilyn Stafford.

Image: Sharon Tate by Marilyn Stafford