Photo-journalist’s portraits go on show

The picture that launched her career, Albert Einstein, Marilyn's first portrait, taken in 1948
The picture that launched her career, Albert Einstein, Marilyn's first portrait, taken in 1948

A FORMER photo-journalist who travelled the world during her career has put together an exhibition of her best pictures.

Marilyn Stafford, of West Street, Shoreham, worked internationally on fashion features and portraits, but also captured harrowing images around the world.

She was one of very few women on Fleet Street in the 1960s and feels she helped pave the way for young women to work in journalism.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Marilyn started out in theatre. She was selected at the age of seven to train with Cleveland Play House, America’s first regional theatre, along with big names like Paul Newman and Joel Grey from Cabaret.

She studied drama at university then went to New York to act, finding some work during the early days of television.

But a documentary on Einstein in 1948 helped launch a new career, in photography.

Marilyn explained: “The director gave me a camera and said you are going to be the photographer. I said I didn’t know how to take pictures. I had only taken them on a Brownie. So in the car from New York to New Jersey, I learned how to use it.

“It was a really beautiful experience. They wanted him to come out against the atom bomb and he did, he made a statement.”

She decided photography was fun and ended up working in the studio of a fashion photographer, one who became a big name in America.

Marilyn admitted: “I was not interested in that kind of photography, but that was where you made the money.

“I was interested in telling stories in pictures and showing the world to people as I saw it, maybe to make them see something and then act on it or enjoy it.”

Her career took her to Paris, where Hungarian war photographer Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, helped her develop.

“I had my first front page splash when I was in Paris in 1958,” recalled Marilyn.

“The French were bombing Algerians fleeing to Tunisia and they bombed a Red Cross Hospital. I was five months pregnant and wanted to do a story on the refugees.”

She went to Tunis to tand two of her images were used by The Observer.

Marilyn said: “It was harassing and as far as I am concerned, the picture I loved is of a refugee mother holding this poor little infant. That image meant more than anything else.”

That picture will be among those on show at Arundel Museum next month, along with her fashion portraits and others of Indira Ghandi, India’s first woman prime minister.

Her photographs taken in India between 1970 and 1980 were on show in England for the first time last week, at an exhibition, Indira and Her India, at The Nehru Centre.

Marilyn moved to Shoreham several years ago, when she retired from photography.

She soon became involved with the community and helped set up the Tarmount Gallery, which has since closed.

Marilyn is also a lover of poetry and helped set up a poetry trail as part of the Adur Festival, as well as getting involved in Shoreham WordFest.

About a year ago, she also founded the ‘poetry place’ in the waiting room at Shoreham railway station, where the poem changes seasonally.

The exhibition at Arundel Museum will be opened by the Duchess of Norfolk on Saturday, December 7 and run to Friday, December 13. The museum is open 10am to 4pm, and until 6.30pm on the Saturday.

Marilyn will also be the guest speaker at Arundel Museum’s annual dinner on December 6, where 12 of her mounted photographs will be auctioned to raise money for the museum.

Tickets for the dinner, at St Mary’s Hall, Arundel, are £15 from the museum.