Cover photo for James Lee Stanfield's Obituary
James Lee Stanfield Profile Photo
1937 James 2023

James Lee Stanfield

September 21, 1937 — October 13, 2023

Veteran National Geographic Photographer James Lee Stanfield, 86, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, died on Friday, October 13, following a yearlong battle with lung cancer and kidney disease. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on September 21, 1937, he was the son of the late Harold W. Stanfield and Amanda Hoffmann Stanfield.

Born into a family of newspaper photographers in Wisconsin, Jim acquired the photography bug naturally, becoming one of the most celebrated and honored of National Geographic’s legendary photographic staff. Having covered epic stories in more than 120 countries, he was the first Geographic photographer to have a retrospective book on his career, Eye of the Beholder. The Geographic also published Inside the Vatican, a groundbreaking book about the Vatican and Pope John Paul ll, which was the Geographic’s biggest selling book of all time.

Jim graduated from Custer High School in Milwaukee and then studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and art at the Layton School of Art and Design. After a stint in the Army during the Berlin Crisis and five productive and award-winning years at the Milwaukee Journal, he joined the Geographic photography staff in 1967.

Having covered everything from rats around the world to Pope John Paul II, Genghis Khan, Windsor Castle, chocolate, and both the Greek and Roman empires and more, Jim was named Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association four times and Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) in 1985. In July 1999, the NPPA honored him with the prestigious Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement. And in 2018, he was given the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from The Photo Society of the National Geographic.

Jim is survived by his devoted partner of 24 years, Deborah Ryerson of Carlisle, PA; his sister-in-law, Betty Stanfield of West Bend, WI; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his beloved brothers, Harold W. Stanfield and Robert J. Stanfield.

Services will be held at noon on Saturday, Nov. 4, at First Presbyterian Church, On the Square in Carlisle, PA, with a visitation one hour before in the sanctuary. A celebration of life reception will be held at 1:30pm at Mood Swings at The Vault, 1 North Hanover Street, Carlisle, PA (across the street from First Presbyterian Church).

Memorial contributions honoring Jim are encouraged to the charities and causes of your choice. Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory, 2020 W. Trindle Rd., Carlisle, PA is assisting family with arrangements. To sign online guestbook, please visit

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Lee Stanfield, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, November 4, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Saturday, November 4, 2023

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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