It was 1948. One aspiring actress tagged along with a couple of filmmaker friends, and ended up taking some of the most iconic photos the world has ever seen: black and white portraits of Albert Einstein. It had such an effect, she instead pursued photography, going on to take portraits of world leaders, and enjoying a career in photojournalism spanning many decades.
Arriving at Einstein’s New Jersey home, Marilyn Stafford was handed a 35mm Canonflex with a zoom lens as a last-minute thought by her filmmaker friends, who asked if she would take some stills for their documentary. Naturally she was nervous, but she insisted Einstein helped put her at ease:
He was absolutely lovely. He met us at the door and there was really no fuss. He was dressed in baggy pants and a sweatshirt. He was completely at ease and made us feel the same. My friends filmed him, he talked and I snapped.
Little did she know at the time, but for decades to follow, sales to publications meant the images she took that day were going to be viewed the world over. In a new interview with LA Times, the photographer, now aged 92 and residing in England, talks about her entire portfolio — many images of which highlight social change in the 20th century, or feature celebrities and world leaders. That’s because her images of Einstein didn’t only make her money, they actually led to her pursuing photography professionally. And she’s certainly happy with how the change panned out: “Oh the wonderful memories I have. Life has been good to me.”
Stafford also works in conjunction with FotoDocument, a non-profit arts education organization run by Nina Emett that casts a light on positive social and environmental initiatives through documentary photography. A subsidary is FotoAward, which recognizes one female photographer each year for their contributions via "initiation or completion of a compelling and cohesive documentary photo essay which addresses an important social, environmental, economic, or cultural issue."
Lead image by Public Domain Pictures via Pexels.
[via LA Times]