On this day in 1998, Marilyn Stafford published her first book of photographs, Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey Through Lebanon. Silent Stories is considered an important historical document as well as a tremendous collection of artwork; the same can be said of much of Marilyn’s work.
Marilyn’s photography career began rather wildly. She accompanied friends who were interviewing Albert Einstein for a documentary film, photographing their road trip and their experience with Albert Einstein. In fact, Marilyn has said that her first photograph was one she took of Einstein, in his home, speaking against atomic weapons.
At first, Marilyn took pictures for pleasure, not as a job, photographing her friends and the people and places she came across, especially after she moved to Paris. Most of all, Marilyn was interested in capturing citizens in the context of the place they lived, telling stories big and small with each snapshot.
One of Marilyn’s first serious endeavors was traveling to Tunisia to document the struggles of Algerian refugees, after their country was nearly destroyed by France in the Algerian War. Mothers nursing babies and children, with dirty faces and tattered clothes, gaze into the camera with a resigned sort of sadness. These photos were picked up by The Observer and put on the front page.
Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey Through Lebanon
Silent Stories: A Photographic Journey Through Lebanon came out in 1998. The book is a collection of photos that Marilyn took during her extensive travels in Lebanon, and depicts Lebanese culture and everyday life. The photos show shopkeepers and their shops, young people out in night life, weddings, fortune tellers, and everything in between. Silent Stories offers a portrait of pre-war Lebanese society, which tends to be both under and misrepresented.
Though Marilyn’s work for Algerian refugees and for Lebanon were monumental in spreading awareness, she also made a monumental contribution to a different world entirely: fashion photography.
Working for a public relations agency, Marilyn photographed various types of clothing for advertisements. At the time, fashion photography was generally shot in highly curated settings meant to convey luxury. However, Marilyn, photographing ready-to-wear clothing rather than couture, utilized her skills in documentary photography and captured her models on the street, capturing the pieces in everyday settings.
Marilyn’s contribution not only to the world of photography but also the history of mankind was tremendous. To the great sadness of many, Marilyn passed away just last month, on January 2nd.
Luckily, her life full of vibrant experiences has been captured, and people can look at her photos and experience both the wonders and the sadnesses of the world whenever they would like to.
© Julia Lasker (2/1/2023) FF2 Media
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LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read Jessica Bond’s review of Marilyn Stafford’s ‘A Life in Photography’ exhibit and learn more about particular photos here.
Explore Marilyn’s work here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Close-Up of a notecard featuring one of Marilyn’s photos of French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Photo of the notecard itself was taken by Jessica Bond for FF2 Media.