Photographer Whose Incredible Work Was Only Recently Discovered Dies Aged 97

Actress Joanna Lumley (left) with models backstage during the Jean Muir fashion show.

Photographer Marilyn Stafford has died at the age of 97. Her first-ever portrait subject was none other than Albert Einstein.

In 1948, the then aspiring actress was handed a 35mm camera while in the presence of the Nobel prizewinning physicist. “I had no idea what I was doing,” Stafford said. “All I was aware of was that I had to focus and click the shutter.”

Model in Paris, circa 1950.
Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand comforting a victim of the Bangladesh Liberation War, 1972.
Montmartre, Paris, 1960.

She would go on to have an extraordinary career building an eclectic portfolio that includes covering the Indo-Parkistan War, 1960s Parisian models, and celebrities like Edith Piaf, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sharon Tate.

While Stafford’s portfolio is truly a jewel, very little was known of her work until recently. She only became a noted photographer well into her 90s. It’s unclear whether misogyny or modesty played a part in her anonymity. According to The Guardian, Stafford did not fully appreciate the social and historical value of her work and was surprised that anyone was interested in her pictures and the amazing stories behind them.

Marilyn Stafford in Lebanon, 1960.
Singer Edith Piaf, Paris, circa 1950.
Indira Gandhi speaking at a mass rally in Kashmir in 1972 following the Indo-Pakistan War.
Indira Gandhi’s grandson Rahul Gandhi with sandbags that were used to fortify her home during the Indo-Pakistan War, 1972.
Dog on bridge, Paris, 1960.
A young Marilyn Stafford.

Stafford explained in an interview with The Guardian in 2022 that she stashed her negatives in shoe boxes, under beds, and in cupboards.

“When I was working, my work was mainly for the press or magazines,” she says.

“So all of the photograph were taken, or most of them, were taken on assignment which is why they had been put away because the time for them had passed.”

Girl with milk bottle, Paris, 1950.
Francesca Serio.
Model having fun at the end of the fashion shoot, Ready-to-wear, Louvre, Paris, circa 1950.
The British model Twiggy, 1960.
A weightlifter in Sidon, Lebanon, 1960.
Street sleepers in Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, circa 1950.
Marilyn Stafford boarding Indian Air Force flight to Kashmir with Indira Gandhi | Photographer unknown
Paris, 1960.
Model Twiggy in London, 1970.
Baalbek village, Lebanon, 1960.
Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand.
Fruit seller and tin smith market in Tripoli, Lebanon, 1960.
Indira Gandhi’s driver at at a mass rally in Kashmir in 1972 following the Indo-Pakistan War.
Montmartre, Paris, 1960.
Indira Gandhi boarding a plane in New Delhi, 1972,
Marilyn Stafford | Photo by Nina Emett

Image credits: All photos by Marilyn Stafford unless otherwise stated.