Stuart Franklin was born in London in 1956. Having left school at 16, he went on to study photography at West Surrey College of Art and Design. His photographic career began when he started to work for the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph Magazine in London and later with Agence Presse Sygma in Paris.
During his time at Sygma (1980–85) he absorbed the skills of news photography, and also followed Henri Cartier-Bresson’s approach to photography; as he puts it, “curious, gentle, surreal with beautiful compositions – his work influenced just about everything I attempted.” In his words, “At Sygma photographers arrived from Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon unloading their Domke bags and their stories. Later I felt confident enough to tell my own. I covered the 1983 Nigerian exodus, the Heysel Stadium disaster, the Beirut bombing of the French and American bases, the civil war there and in Sri Lanka, the conflict in Northern Ireland and finally the 1984–85 famine in Sudan.”
In Khartoum, Franklin shared a flat with Sebastião Salgado for a few weeks. Salgado worked with Magnum Photos in Paris. Franklin was invited to join in the summer of 1985, and has been a full member since 1989, serving most recently as the agency’s elected president between 2006-2009.
It was during the course of 1989 that Franklin took his acclaimed photographs in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where a demonstration for freedom ended in a massacre. Thereafter he began to move away from news into magazine feature photography. Between 1990 and 2004 he photographed about twenty stories for National Geographic Magazine. During this time Franklin decided to pursue a better theoretical understanding of some of the issues he confronted, by embarking a period of academic study in 1997. He graduated with a first class degree in geography from Oxford University, and went on to complete his doctoral thesis there in 2002.
In 2005 he undertook the series of large-format photographs of Europe’s changing landscape that has led to his book, Footprint: Our Landscape in Flux (Thames & Hudson, 2008). During 2009 Franklin travelled to Mali and the Middle East. Franklin co-curating the Noorderlicht Photo Festival 2009 with an exhibition entitled Point of No Return on the continuing conflict in Gaza. In a change of approach to documentary, Franklin undertook a course of training at the UK’s National Film and Television School in observational documentary. Subsequently Franklin worked on his first long form documentary Runners, together with film work for ESPN.
During 2010 continued with the project: Farmscapes supported and funded by the Scottish National Galleries. The work was first exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2012. During 2010-13 Franklin completed a long-term landscape project Narcissus, exhibited during in 2012/13 in Ålesund-Norway, Kristiansund - Norway, London, Paris and Edinburgh. Franklin has published numerous books of his work including, The Time of Trees, Leonardo Arte, Milan, 1999; Sea Fever, Bardwell Press, Oxford, 2005; Footprint: Our Landscape in Flux, Thames & Hudson, 2008; and Narcissus, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart, 2013.