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 the Scuola Libera di Roma, Rome, Italy in 1974 and completed her studies at the New York University (NYU), in New York, USA with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Photojournalism in 1978.
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.
The body of work, CRY SADNESS INTO THE COMING RAIN (2014 – 2018), marks a new phase in Courtney-Clarke’s photographic work, documenting the artist’s return to Namibia and her engagement with a people and landscape in crisis. David Goldblatt writes “[the photographs] are eloquent of raw existence and offer faint glimmers of hope, of life scratched from an appallingly inhospitable terrain in the face of overwhelming societal transition. Yet these photographs attain a searing grace which is in no sense false to the reality but is, on the contrary, a rare synthesis of what is there with an intensely heightened and uncompromisingly honest vision”.
Spending more than 4 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.
Nominations and awards for her photographic publications include: the 2018 Krasznz-Krausz Book Award (long listed), for CRY SADNESS TO THE COMING RAIN, Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, London, UK; the 2015 Henri Cartier-Bresson (HBC) Award for her series On Borrowed Time, Fondation Cartier-Bresson, Paris, France and the 10 Best Books of the Year Award (1994), Entertainment Weekly, USA.
Dedicated publications on Courtney-Clarke’s work include, amongst others – CRY SADNESS INTO THE COMING RAIN (2018), with accompanying essay by Sean O’Toole; her trilogy on the Art of African Women: Ndebele (2002), Imazighen (1996) and African Canvas (1990).
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.
Margaret Courtney-Clarke recently presented her first solo exhibition with SMAC Gallery, CRY SADNESS INTO THE COMING RAIN, at SMAC in Stellenbosch.
Courtney-Clarke has been included on the long list for the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for her publication entitled CRY SADNESS INTO THE COMING RAIN, and nominated for the Photo District News (PDN) Award for A Lifelong Obsession with Finding Shelter, New York City, USA.