Ahead of the launch of the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award in partnership with FotoDocument, we spoke to Marilyn about her hopes for the award.

Photoworks: Why did you set up this award now and what do you hope it will help people achieve?

Marilyn Stafford: I’ve always been concerned with humanitarian and social issues, and I know I’m not alone in wanting to make the world a better place. I’ve been fortunate at times, to be able to present my concerns through photography in the hope the pictures will either, raise awareness, or encourage people to do something about the situation and where possible, show actions being taken or which might be taken.

There were a handful of women photojournalists on Fleet Street when I came to London in the mid-sixties and, while there are many more since that time, the balance is still biased towards men, not only in the UK but everywhere. Many women photographers struggle just to make ends meet as freelance photographers, others lack the money to pay for childcare while on assignment. I hope in essence this award will help a female photographer achieve her goals.

Little girls studying the Koran in front of Mosque, India 1973
Photo: Marilyn Stafford
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PW: What are you looking for in the submissions in particular and what do you want the panel to base their selections on?

MS: We’re looking for a good story, which can be told in a compelling way through a visual narrative. The photo essay can be based on any social, environmental or cultural issue, whether local or global. We are looking for projects intended to make the world a better place, work which potentially has the power to create impact and to influence. We’d like to see the women who apply genuinely motivated by bringing about change.

PW: How has being a woman influenced your career as a photographer the most do you think?

MS: In fact, I have often received support (without strings attached) from men who were sympathetic to women trying to work in a field which, at the time at least, was very much a ‘man’s world’. In some cases it worked in my favour to be a minority because that also made me a curiosity. There are of course some very decent men in the industry – even back then – so I was reasonably fortunate but it still wasn’t a level playing field. I found to get regular work, I had to enter the world of fashion photography for a prolonged period, which was seen as more suitable for women photographers at the time. I also juggled assignments and personal projects with motherhood and marriage.

Joanna Lumley (lower left) and models before Jean Muir Fashion Show, London.
Photo: Marilyn Stafford
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Bride on her throne, Bekka Valley, Lebanon, 1960
Photo: Marilyn Stafford
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PW: What do you think are the ongoing challenges for women in photography today?

MS: Too many female photographers do not receive the recognition they deserve. Historically, some female photographers are only recognised posthumously, if at all as we know, so this needs to change.

There is gender disparity in most fields of work and photography is no exception. There are some very telling statistics about the low number of women who are hired to cover significant international new stories or who win world press awards, for example.

Confidence is also sometimes an issue perhaps for some female photographers. There are a lot of gate-keepers in the industry, and in the arts generally there tend to be quite strong egos so there is a lot to contend with!

Biba, Kings Road, London, 1970. Model wearing Biba’s famous brown lace dress.
Photo: Marilyn Stafford
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As I’ve said before, sometimes women don’t have the time or money to do the projects they wish to do because of caring responsibilities.

For all of these reasons, I wanted to set up an award specifically for women in photography, to play my small part in redressing the balance.

Bangladesh 1972: Refugees of War of Liberation with Pakistan Photo: Marilyn Stafford
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Marilyn’s forthcoming show Marilyn Stafford – Stories in Pictures 1950-60 opens at Lucy Bell Fine Art Gallery on May 6.

To see more of Marilyn’s work, click here. 

Further information on the award can be found here. Send your completed applications to info@fotodocument.org by 5pm (GMT) on Friday 26 May 2017.

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