Retail icon Stanley Marcus was passionate about photography, but only now is that passion emerging publicly — with help from his family.
A retrospective of his images, “Reflection of a Man: The Photographs of Stanley Marcus,” is on display through March 30 at the Dallas Museum of Art, to which Marcus donated more than 300 works and was a trustee for over 60 years.
Marcus, who died in 2002 at age 96, was the son of Neiman Marcus founder Herbert Marcus and the impresario who propelled the Dallas-based luxury retailer onto an international platform. He was also a man of myriad interests, including art, literature, civic activism and travel.
“His original interest was art and design, but he was encouraged to join the family business,” said William Rudolph, associate curator of American modern art at the museum, where 39 of Marcus’ photographs are on display.
Privately, Marcus adored photography so much that he always bought the latest cameras, including Leica, Minox, Polaroid and Hasselblad. His eldest daughter, Jerrie Marcus Smith, recalled that her father chronicled her childhood “ad nauseam,” as well as those of her twin siblings, Richard and Wendy.
Marcus, who became president of Neiman’s in 1950 and chairman emeritus in 1975, began documenting his family in color photographs in 1937. Self-taught, he always had a camera with him, turning his lens on his vibrant social life, travels, popular culture and designers. Marcus showed his work to friends and family, but he didn’t promote or use it commercially.
“They’re really not amateur photographs,” Rudolph said. “He was right there at the cusp of every technical innovation. The color is as rich as it comes. It is absolutely cutting-edge.”
Dating from 1939 to 1971, the images in the show depict a kaleidoscopic range, from clowns at the Expo ’67 fair in Montreal to a French cafe waitress.
They represent only a fraction of the 5,000 slides that Marcus gave to his granddaughter, photographer Allison V. Smith, in 1997, suggesting that she might figure out what to do with them.
Smith had long shared an interest in photography with her grandfather, but it wasn’t until well after his death that she began opening the boxes of slides, some of which still bore a 49-cent Neiman Marcus price tag from the company’s camera department.
This story first appeared in the February 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“He won a New York Times photo contest in about 1928 with a shot of a building that is really Photo 101, and that was the only photo he really talked about,” she said.
Smith uploaded more than 100 of his images — without naming the photographer — to the photo Web site Flickr.com, where they generated hundreds of positive comments. Encouraged, she worked with an editor to cull the best shots for a book, calling on her mother, Jerrie, to help with identifications.
Jerrie Marcus Smith and her daughter produced a book of 190 images, “Reflection of a Man: The Photographs of Stanley Marcus,” to coincide with Neiman Marcus’ centennial celebration in October.