John Stewart (1919-2017)
Soon after compeleting his French education (although he was born in London) John Stewart was drafted in the British Army – a six-year stint, of which three-and-a-half were spent in POW camps on the River Kwai. It was only in 1951, after a long period searching for a career that he discovered photography. He went to New York with shots of Picasso, Matisse and Braque, and attended Alexei Brodovitch’s weekly classes.
Brodovitch, art director of Harper’s Bazaar and the shaper of photography in America in the mid-20th century Century, offered him a contract on the condition that he become a “maid-of-all-work” fashion, beauty, portraits, still-life. Stewart then set up the first of his many studios. He was also commissioned to work for Fortune and Look Magazine, then years later, moved over to Vogue.
In the mid-Seventies, Stewart first abandoned advertising and later editorial work: turning to still-life, he devoted himself exclusively to producing his own images. Paradoxically, his years in Asia greatly influenced both his vision and his travels. Although he works wherever he finds his subjects, he favours the studio with its set space and its controllable light. He thinks up specific themes and may spend as long as two years to complete them. He is far removed from photo-journalism, although Cartier-Bresson was was a friend and had counseled him. His first show was in New York (1976), his second at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. His work is exhibited yearly in museums and galleries.
Stewart works out of Paris and from his house in Provence. He is co-director of IRIS, a charitable organisation (NGO) founded in 1996 with Mme Michèle Claudel to deal with eye disease in Cambodia, Nepal, Laos and Sri Lanka.