After losing a painful battle to bone marrow cancer, Magnum photographer Peter Marlow died yesterday at the age of 64. Marlow, known for his color work and opening Magnum Photo’s London office, was a prolific photographer whose work in portraiture and conceptual photography was second to none.
Marlow got his start as a photojournalist for the Sygma agency in the 70s but quickly realized he didn’t like being part of the dog-eat-dog business of photojournalism. He went back to London helped build the Magnum Photos London office into a successful photo agency representing the likes of photographers like Martin Parr.
Stuart Franklin, Magnum London’s Vice President, wrote this heartfelt tribute to Marlow on the Magnum Photo website:
Magnum today is in shock after the sudden passing of Peter Marlow, 64, who died in London yesterday after a painful struggle with bone marrow cancer (myeloma). Peter joined Magnum in 1980, and became a full member in 1986. For thirty years Peter has been part of the essential glue that has held us all together. Along with Chris Steele-Perkins, Peter founded Magnum’s London office in 1987 and since that time has overseen its wellbeing.
Peter was one of the most considerate and unselfish people I have known, always putting the interests of others above his own. He was an enormous support to Jinx Rodger through his work on George Rodger’s archive. Even three weeks ago, in the grips of what he knew he had to face, he’d offered to host an AGM party in his penthouse flat above the office.
I have known Peter since he was a news photographer in the early 1980s working for Agence Presse Sygma. Whilst he brought empathy and enormous range to covering the global news agenda, his personality never squared with the cut and thrust of photojournalism.
Peter was a quiet, calm man, a peace maker amongst us. I have no memory of him ever raising his voice, quite remarkable for a man who’s been Magnum’s President twice and Vice President on numerous occasions. He internalized his frustrations, and lately his pain. His last days were spent in a London hospital, where he watched over the River Thames, a subject to which he frequently returned.
In his early career he became a distinguished portraitist often on assignment for The Sunday Times Magazine where he formed a bond during the 1980s. His talent for lighting and appreciation of natural light were hallmarks of his photography from his earliest work in Liverpool and London to his recent body of work on The English Cathedral. In January, Peter spoke enthusiastically about a forthcoming exhibition of this work, to be opened in Coventry Cathedral on 29th April 2016. This morning the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, John Witcombe, wrote:
“We are shocked and saddened by the news of Peter’s death. It was a delight to work with him on the development of the English Cathedrals exhibition – which we still hope will be presented in his honour and memory in Coventry Cathedral later this year. Peter has shared with us his gift for seeing – and particularly his gift for seeing light. Light, and space, are the hallmarks of all our Cathedrals, and Coventry Cathedral in particular. Peter’s gift of helping us see will stay with us, and will be his lasting legacy. He will remain a very special man in our hearts, and we will miss him – but his photographs will remain, and continue to open our eyes to the world around us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues, as we entrust Peter to that greater light for which we all hope.”
It is with his family that another important aspect of Peter’s photography evolved, focused inwards on a story of life and love shared with Fiona, their three sons, Max, Theo and Felix and his daughter, Chloe. Recently, he told an interviewer: “Every other year I make a 150-page book of our family photos and have it bound, as a present for my wife, Fiona. It’s lovely to get all the books out and look at them. My children’s memories are quite conditioned by these books, with many ‘remember when we…’ moments being talked about as a result of these photos.”
We all have our ‘remember when we’ moments with Peter. Underlying all of them is our collective picture of a generous, unselfish, self-effacing man, stoical to the last. We have lost a very good friend to all of us. Our feelings reach out to Peter’s family at this terrible time.
Click here to see a gallery of Marlow’s work.