Magnum photographer Peter Marlow, a two-time president of the prestigious agency, has died. He was 63.

“Magnum today is in shock after the sudden passing of Peter Marlow, 63, who died in London [on Feb. 21] after a painful struggle with bone marrow cancer,” writes his friend and colleague Stuart Franklin.

Marlow, who joined the agency in 1980 and became a full member in 1986, was instrumental in the launch of Magnum’s London office with Chris Steele-Perkins. “As well as being a fine photographer…it is difficult to overestimate Peter’s contribution to Magnum over the years,” photographer Martin Parr tells TIME. “He has been both vice president and president; together with Chris Steele-Perkins he was responsible for founding the London office in the 1980s. [He] helped secure [its] purchase, and—with his partner Fiona—fit it out to a very high standard.”

To Steele-Perkins, Marlow was a calm and dedicated man. “He burnished Magnum’s reputation by the consistent quality and professionalism of his commercial work, and the insistent eccentric individualism of his personal work and the example of his own behavior,” he says.

Born in 1952, Marlow started his photographic career aboard a cruise ship before joining the Sygma photo agency in 1976. After documenting the volatile situations in Northern Ireland and Lebanon, he abandoned photojournalism, arguing that “the stereotype of the concerned photojournalist disguised the disheartening reality of dog-eat-dog competition between photographers hunting fame at all costs,” he once wrote. Instead, Marlow focused on portraiture and long-term projects, including an eight-year survey of Liverpool and a collaboration with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 1990s.

For his latest book, Marlow documented 42 Anglican cathedrals across England, producing a body of work that Parr said offered “a new twist” on the genre. The work, published in a book form in 2012, was going to be exhibited inside Coventry Cathedral in late April. “Peter has shared with us his gift for seeing—and particularly his gift for seeing light,” Dean of Coventry Cathedral, John Witcombe, told Magnum. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues, as we entrust Peter to that greater light for which we all hope.”

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