M.E. Warren Photography
Marion E. Warren Biography
The Eastport Gallery

419 Fourth Street  • Annapolis, Maryland  21403 • (410) 268-2898


The Life of Marion E. Warren

Marion Warren bought his first camera in 1938 when he was seventeen years old so that he could take pictures of his classmates for his high school yearbook. The awkward young man who had experienced many hardships throughout childhood and adolescence suddenly discovered a talent that both surprised and delighted him. With minimal formal education in photography, he won a series of jobs working in commercial studios in St. Louis. In his free time he wandered the city and the nearby countryside with his camera. The images he took then reveal a surprising early mastery of his art.

Enlistment in the U.S. Navy in 1942 brought new opportunities when Marion Warren landed a three-year assignment in the Department of the Navy’s Office of Public Relations in Washington, D.C. This experience sparked a deep and abiding awareness of the crucial part photography can play in creating vital visual documentation of day-to-day history. He regularly shot portraits of top Navy brass and events at the White House. He also developed film delivered fresh from Pacific and European engagements, including a roll that contained the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. And he met two people who would play pivotal roles in his career. Mary Giblin, the woman he would marry, was a WAVE in the Navy. She was assigned to write captions for him the night they met, a job she excelled at for more than forty years. He also worked in close proximity to yachtsman Carleton Mitchell, who invited Marion Warren and his family to move to Annapolis, Maryland, so that the young photographer could continue to assist Mitchell as he produced books and articles.

Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay revealed a whole new world for Marion Warren and his camera. In just a few years he shifted from covering weddings and taking formal portraits to more challenging commercial and industrial assignments that sent him all over the United States. He saw Annapolis transform from a sleepy town into a thriving center for historic preservation and tourism. His work for architects and planners documented the metamorphosis of downtown Baltimore as he photographed the city before, during, and after the creation of Charles Center. Few weekends were spent at home as his family traversed Maryland so that Marion Warren could shoot hundreds of classic images of famous landmarks and out-of-the-way places.

In 1987 Marion Warren donated more than 100,000 black-and-white negatives to the Maryland State Archives, assuring that his legacy would be properly cared for and enjoyed for generations to come. At about the same time he began his Bay Project, an effort to visually document every aspect of the Chesapeake and its watershed, which resulted in his seventh book, Bringing Back the Bay.  Then, in his late seventies as his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease worsened and he needed to stay closer to home, he undertook an extensive portrait project that he called Friends and Neighbors.

In August 2001, an exhibit entitled The Photography of Marion E. Warren: A Retrospective Vision opened at The Mitchell Gallery of St. John’s College in Annapolis. The exhibit drew a record crowd to its opening reception. Marion Warren met Joanie Surette while assembling the exhibit. She became his assistant working with him until the time of his death.

In August 2002, a cover article appeared in The Washington Post Magazine that generated a renewed interest in Marion Warren’s photography.

Late in 2002 Marion Warren began a collaboration with photographer and master printer, Richard Olsenius using a new fine art archival printing process, producing, in the artist’s own words, “the most superb prints of my work available today.”

Bringing Back the Bay went back on press for a second printing in December 2002.

The Retrospective Vision exhibit hung in the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis for the year 2003.

An exhibit of Marion Warren’s newly printed archival color photographs was shown in 2004 introducing the public to aspects of his work that few knew existed.

Marion Warren and Joanie Surette formed a company in 2005, M. E. Warren Photography, LLC, to ensure that Marion Warren’s photographs would remain available to the public. Sales of his fine art photographs continued as well as commercial installations in restaurants and offices.

Marion Warren was instrumental in helping the Artwalk project win approval in the City of Annapolis. His photographs, as well as many vintage images he and his daughter Mame Warren unearthed, are featured prominently in the lobby display of the new Severn Bank Building on West Street.

Marion Warren spent the last years of his life working toward the goal of “keeping my pictures alive when I’m gone.” He continued to print his photographs in his darkroom well into his eighties, while also embracing the new digital printing processes. During his sixty-year career as a photographer and master printer, he had experienced many advances in the ever-changing world of photography. He lived to see the digital transition and welcomed it for the beauty of the end result – exquisitely printed photographs of his timeless images.

Until his death in September, 2006 at the age of eighty-six, Marion Warren worked almost daily with his favorite images from throughout his more-than-sixty-year career. From the farms of rural Missouri where he grew up to the deck of a skipjack plying the choppy waters of the Chesapeake, Marion Warren bore witness to his time and his place and we are all the richer for his vision.


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