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18 November 2021

Farewell to Tom Stoddart, a photography master

His career spanned four decades and was much admired and respected for its humanity, depth and perspective.

By Gerry Brakus

The highly acclaimed British photojournalist, Tom Stoddart, has died at the age of 68. 

Stoddart’s career, which began at a local newspaper in his native north-east of England and spanned four decades, was much admired and deeply respected for its humanity, depth and perspective.

Tom Stoddart photographed in Serbia while on assignment, October 2015

Covering almost every major conflict and natural disaster, from wars to earthquakes, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Tony Blair’s 1997 election campaign (to which he was given exclusive access), Stoddart started photographing almost exclusively in black and white in the early 1990s. In an interview with the Evening Standard in 2019, he quoted the Canadian photographer Ted Grant: “If you photograph in colour, you see the colour of their clothes, but if you photograph in black and white, you see the colour of their soul.” This gave Stoddart’s work in Sarajevo, where he documented the Bosnian War, a particular edge. But his talent lay in the ability to see humanity in all its guises: he was equally brilliant at capturing great humour.

What is undeniable is that his pictures touched people deeply and allowed us to view some extraordinary events through the eyes of a photography master.  His family released a statement today (17 November), perfectly summing up his work: “Tom touched the lives of so many as a brilliant, compassionate, courageous photographer whose legacy of work will continue to open the eyes for generations. He gave voice to those who did not have one and shone a light where there had been darkness.”

On a personal note, I will never forget the thrill I felt on the rare occasion that he “liked” one of my photographs on Instagram. He was a warm and generous presence in the photography community, and will be much missed.

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 A mother looks for the safety of higher ground near Chokwe, Mozambique, during the floods that covered the country in 2000
Refugee children at the Moria Camp in Lesbos, Greece, October 2015
Sheltering from a heavy mortar bombardment, Antonia Arapovic, hugs her neighbour’s terrified child in the darkness of an underground cellar in Sarajevo, 1992
Anastasia Protas who is ill with AIDS pictured with her husband, Budaga, at their home in Mwanza, Tanzania. The couple has 5 daughters and a son, who are all cared for by the husband, Mwanza, Tanzania, 2002
The Berlin Wall on the morning of 10 November 1989, when East Berliners were allowed to cross into the west for the first time
Tony Blair MP during the 1997 General Election campaign trail
Crufts Dog Show, Birmingham, March 2002
Women marines arrive at the recruit training centre on Parris Island, South Carolina, September 1998
A young gymnast training with her coach in a sports school, China, July 1993

All photos: Tom Stoddart / Getty Images

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