Covering everything from rats to Pope John Paul II, James Stanfield’s adventures have taken him to more than 120 countries. His professionalism, ability to blend in with his subjects, natural curiosity, and dedication have earned him numerous awards, a fascinating life, and plenty of stories to tell.
Born into a family of newspaper photographers in Wisconsin, Stanfield has always been interested in photography. His early memories are of his father teaching him the basics of black-and-white photography in the basement darkroom. As a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin and then a student at the Layton School of Art and Design, Stanfield honed his photographic skills. After a stint in the army and five years at the Milwaukee Journal, Stanfield joined the National Geographic magazine photography staff in 1967.
Stanfield’s mission has been to document the world’s places, events, and cultures. He has covered subjects including the coronation of Iran’s shah, the robbing of pre-Columbian Indian gravesites in search of gold, the power and allure of chocolate, and royal life in England’s Windsor Castle. He has produced articles on Syria, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Israel, Poland, Bhutan, and the Czech Republic. His lens has focused on the grand dramas of history and civilization, including “The World of Süleyman the Magnificent,” “Genghis Khan,” “In the Wake of Darwin’s Beagle,” “Portugal’s Sea Road to the East,” “The Rat, Lapdog of the Devil,” “The Power and the Glory of the Roman Empire,” and “Ibn Battuta, Prince of Travelers.”
Stanfield’s photographs have illustrated several books: Inside the Vatican, The Greatest Flight, and Eye of the Beholder, a retrospective of his career.
Stanfield’s contributions to the world of photojournalism have earned him the recognition of his peers. The White House News Photographers Association has chosen him as Photographer of the Year four times: in 1970, 1977, 1982, and 1987. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) also named him Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1985. In July 1999, the NPPA presented him with the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.