Mary Frampton, 76; Times photographer, Malibu activist

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Times Staff Writer

Mary Frampton, one of the first female staff photographers at the Los Angeles Times who became an environmental activist in Malibu, has died. She was 76.

Frampton was found dead Friday at her home in Malibu, said her friend and attorney John Murdock. She had been in declining health, but a cause of death has not been determined.

A photographer who shot mostly for the features sections of the newspaper from 1956 to 1987, Frampton threw herself into environmental causes in Malibu and organized the nonprofit group Save Our Coast.


Alarmed by commercial and residential development along the coast and plans for a freeway through Malibu Canyon and a nuclear power plant in Corral Canyon, she fought fervently to preserve open space in the area and protect marine life from pollution.

Mark Gold, executive director of the Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay, called Frampton one of “the original coastal environmental advocates that meant so much during the ‘70s and ‘80s when there really weren’t any Heal the Bays out there.” Frampton “forged the way for the rest of us.”

She could hold her own, whether it was advocating her position on environmental issues or asserting herself in the workplace.

In an interview this week Bill Thomas, editor of The Times from 1971 to 1989, recalled Frampton’s fiery nature.

“You weren’t going to turn her away from an assignment,” Thomas said. “Photographers have to do that or they’re not going to get the job done.”

For most of her career, Frampton used a Rolleiflex camera with 2 1/4 -inch square film, but at the beginning she lugged around a larger 4- by 5-inch Speed Graphic camera and the heavy film and flash equipment that came with it.


Art Rogers, a photographer who worked at The Times for four decades starting in 1941, said Frampton handled the demands of carrying 25 to 30 pounds of equipment out to the job.

“She was not a large woman at all,” he said this week. “She worked under the stresses of a real old-time photographer.”

In 1966 she won a Penny-Missouri award as Women’s Page Photographer of the Year, and four years later she won another of the national journalism awards for feature photography.

Born in New York City in 1930, Frampton moved with her parents to San Bernardino when she was young. Her mother, Edithe Hethcock, was a sculptor; her father, Eugenio Nogueras, was editor and publisher of a weekly Spanish-language newspaper, El Sol de San Bernardino.

Frampton started taking pictures with a Brownie camera as a child. She attended San Bernardino Valley College and got her first photography job in 1950 at what is now the San Bernardino Sun.

In 1954 she moved on to the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, where she worked on the society pages before being hired as a staff photographer at The Times in 1956.


Frampton leaves no survivors, besides three greyhounds she adopted from a rescue organization. Her husband. Bob, an editor on the city desk at The Times, died many years ago.

Friends are planning a memorial service for a future date in Malibu, her longtime home.

“She was a strong person, got things done, which is a remarkable thing,” her friend and fellow Malibu resident Bill Littlejohn said. “We’re going to miss her, this little city of Malibu.”