MARGARET COURTNEY - CLARKE

b. 1949, Swakopmund, Namibia.

Worked and lived in Rome, Italy & New York City, USA [1972 – 2009]

Currently resides in Swakopmund, Namibia.

Margaret Courtney-Clarke was born in Swakopmund, Namibia in 1949 where she currently lives and works. Following a degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa in 1971, Courtney-Clarke enrolled at Scuola Libera di Roma in Rome, Italy in 1974 and completed her studies at the New York University (NYU), in New York City, USA with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Photojournalism in 1978. In 2019 Courtney-Clarke was shortlisted for the 8th Contemporary African Photography Prize (CAP), as well as the prestigious Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. The nomination included an exhibition of selected works at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Porter Gallery in London, UK. Further nominations and awards for her photographic publications include the 2018 Krasznz-Krausz Book Award (longlisted), for Cry Sadness To The Coming Rain, in London, UK; the Photo District News (PDN) Award for A Lifelong Obsession with Finding Shelter in New York City, USA both in 2018; the 2015 Henri Cartier-Bresson (HBC) Award for her series On Borrowed Time in Paris, France as well as the 10 Best Books of the Year Award (1994), Entertainment Weekly, USA.

Recent exhibitions include Crossing Night: Regional Identities x Global Context, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, USA; SMAC Gallery’s group presentation at FNB Art Joburg in Johannesburg, South Africa and Investec Cape Town Art Fair at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) in Cape Town, South Africa all in 2019. In 2020 Clarke will be included in SMAC Gallery’s group presentation at Photo London at Somerset House in London, UK. 

Courtney-Clarke began her career working under Italian photographer and filmmaker, Pasquale De Antonis, photographing art, architecture and antiquities before travelling as a freelance photographer on magazine assignments in Europe and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978/1979, Courtney-Clarke became a persona non grata under the apartheid laws and renounced her South African citizenship – she would later return to South West Africa under the protection of the United Nations and claim her Namibian citizenship. Throughout her career, Courtney-Clarke would pursue personal projects in Africa documenting feminine identity. She further maintained lasting friendships with figures like South African photographer David Goldblatt, as well as multiple collaborations with civil rights activist and poet, Maya Angelou. Courtney-Clarke’s iconic portraits include depictions of Coretta Scott King, Susan Sontag, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey.

Courtney-Clarke’s retrospective Cry Sadness To The Coming Rain was up on exhibition at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2018. Dedicated publications on Courtney-Clarke’s work include: Cry Sadness Into The Coming Rain (2018), with accompanying an essay by Sean O’Toole; her trilogy on the Art of African Women: Ndebele(2002), Imazighen (1996) and African Canvas (1990). Spending more than four decades working as a photographer between Italy, USA and across the African continent, Courtney-Clarke’s work has been commissioned and distributed by Hoa-Qui (France), Speranza (Italy), Anzenburger (Austria), Mega Press (Tokyo), Photo Researchers (USA), the BBC (UK) and CBC (Canada) amongst others.

Notable collections include: WÜRTH Collection, Munich, Germany; National Geographic Collection, Washington DC, USA; Robert Devereux Collection, The African Arts Trust, London, UK; the Hermés Collection, Paris, France and the BHP Billiton Collection, Melbourne, Australia.

In 2020 Clarke will be included in SMAC Gallery’s group presentation at Photo London at Somerset House in London, UK. 

Courtney-Clarke work is part of the exhibition,  Crossing Night: Regional Identities x Global Context,  at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, USA. The exhibition will run until January 19th, 2020.

Courtney-Clarke was recently shortlisted for the 8th Contemporary African Photography Prize (CAP), as well as the prestigious Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. The Prix Pictet winner will be announced on 13 November, and the nomination includes an exhibition of selected works at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Porter Gallery in London, UK.

Sean Sheehan | The Prisma | The other Namibia | 15 July 2019 – PDF

The Guardian | Prix Pictet 2019 shortlist – photo essay | 5 July 2019 – PDF

The Namibian | ‘Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain’ launched at Swakop | 5 August 2018 – PDF

Diane Smythe | The British Journal of Photography | Photo London: the 2018 Kraszna-Krausz shortlist | 9 May 2018 – PDF

Levante News | Camogli: P46 Gallery, inaugurata la mostra di Margaret Courtney-Clarke | 5 May 2018 – PDF