Following the sudden and tragic passing of Magnum photographer Peter Marlow in February, Magnum hosted a memorial exhibition celebrating his life and work. Curated by Peter’s colleagues and friends in the Magnum membership, the exhibition spans his early work as a photojournalist in Haiti, his seminal photographs from ‘Liverpool: Looking Out to Sea’ and his lifelong commitment to documenting his family. Each photograph was selected by his friends and colleagues, with comments from each shedding light on how his practice affected theirs, intertwined in their lives.
Chris Steele-Perkins writes, “This selection of photographs was made by Peter’s fellow photographers in Magnum from his enormous and varied archive. They are from various stages in his career and illuminate various aspects of his personality. They are photographs that have special meaning for the photographers who write eloquently about their reasons for choosing these images.”
Peter Marlow was an internationally recognised photographer, and a member of Magnum Photos since 1980. Although gifted in the language of photojournalism, Peter Marlow was not a photojournalist. He was initially, however, one of the most enterprising and successful young British news photographers, and in 1976 joined the Sygma agency in Paris.
He soon found that he lacked the necessary appetite for the job while on assignment in Lebanon and Northern Ireland during the late 1970s; he discovered that the stereotype of the concerned photojournalist often disguised the disheartening reality of dog- eat-dog competition between photographers hunting fame at all costs.
In the early 80s, his work shifted in style and tone as, often shooting in colour, he concentrated on portraiture and extended documentary projects. In 1981 he shot what is now considered an iconic portrait of Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool, and in the 90s he worked in a long-term collaboration with Tony Blair as New Labour rose to power.
An ever thoughtful photographer, Marlow also created personal images that possessed a quiet, lingering power, based on close observation of the subject. One of his most well known series is Liverpool: Looking Out to Sea, for which he spent eight years in the 80s and 90s photographing the city’s declining inner heart and docklands.
Marlow had come full circle. He started his career as an international photojournalist, returned to Britain to examine his own experience, and discovered a new visual poetry that enabled him to understand his homeland. Having found this poetry, he took it back on the road: he photographed as much in Japan, the USA and elsewhere in Europe as he did in the UK.
Fellow photographer Martin Parr said of his work: “As well as being a fine photographer… It is difficult to overestimate Peter’s contribution to Magnum over the years”.
Peter Marlow died in London on 21st February 2016 from influenza contracted during a stem cell transplant.
“Together these photographs start to reflect on and celebrate a life well lived, and also underline the loss of a complex, energetic, talented and compassionate man whose death came far to soon,” writes Chris Steele-Perkins.
Click into the caption of each image to read the written contributions and reflections from Peter’s colleagues and friends.