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A Late Lunch in Eastport and a Visit to the Eastport Gallery • Marion E. Warren A True Annapolis Experience

Post Update: I am sad to update the readers of this post that the Eastport Gallery on Fourth Street in Annapolis Maryland closed on April 27th 2014.

After a full day of blog related work activities around town an associate and I agreed to take in a late lunch over in the Eastport district of Annapolis to unwind from the day. As we were being led to our table there at the Boatyard Bar and Grill I really had no idea that a passive interest of mine in a local photographer would soon turn the rest of the day into such an intense Annapolis Experience.

Have you ever found yourself a situation where you seem to be seated at the exact same table in a restaurant or cafe that you regularly patronize, time and time again? As we were being escorted to our table that afternoon it was obvious to me that as we got closer to where our host was leading us that this was going to be deja vu all over again. As our host was about to put the menus down on the table I simply said to him “is there another table available for us today?” Without hesitation he replied “sure” and we then followed him over to the far side of the restaurant and took our seats at a table near the back entrance.

 

One of the Dining Rooms At The Boatyard Bar and Grill In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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Soon after sitting down the both of us began to peruse our menus and it was right about then that I began to feel a sensation as if there was something hovering near my shoulder1 Yes the waiters and waitresses were busy moving between the tables filled with customers yet it was not their fast paced actions that I was sensing near me it was something else altogether. I was still looking at the menu when our waiter arrived and quickly took our drink order and then scurried off. It was at that point that my eyes were drawn to a framed black and white photograph hanging on the wall immediately to the left of our table.

The picture on the wall next to our table was of two local watermen resting their arms on the secured mainsail and boom of a docked boat. I looked at the picture for a minute or so and then my eyes began to roam around the room taking in the images of the mounted Rockfish hanging on the wall, the old oyster cans lining the shelves above an entrance door and finally the other nautical memorabilia that adorned the walls of the restaurant. In spite of the maritime decor package seemingly scattered in front of me I found my eyes drawn back to that picture on the wall. I began to focus more on the details in the picture noticing that it appeared to have been taken somewhere here in Annapolis – possibly by the City Dock or perhaps here in Eastport. It was certainly not a recent picture for the men standing on the boat appeared to be dressed in work clothes from the 1960’s.

In a matter of minutes the waiter returned with our drinks as well as to take our lunch orders so after he left we began to enjoy our beers and talk about a few of the blog’s active projects. It was during this conversation that I stopped in mid sentence, turned my head to the left and realized that the framed photograph hanging next to me had been taken by Mr. Marion E. Warren. I looked over at my lunch partner and pointed at the picture and said to them “this is a Marion Warren picture, did you know that?” which they replied “yes and there is another one on the wall a few tables up from us, didn’t you see that one either when we walked in?” to which I replied a bit sheepishly “no”.

 

Sandwiches On The Table At The Boatyard Bar and Grill In Annapolis December 3rd 2011

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We spent the time waiting for our lunch to arrive by discussing in which ways we appreciated Mr. Warren’s photographs. While our creative director stated that she very much liked the settings that he had used around the Chesapeake Bay area for his photographs I pointed out how Mr. Warren seemed to have had an uncanny ability to be able to capture people at just the right moment when they were not actually posing for the camera. I added that by capturing a moment in someone’s life in such an unaltered and realistic way was certainly one of his talents as a photographer. Our meals came and we finished them in short order as we continued our conversation focusing particularly on that picture on the wall next to our table.

With our meals finished we settled our bill and my associate made her way off to the restroom as I started to walk about the other tables looking at some of the other pictures of Mr. Warren’s that were mounted on the walls. I found myself basically staring at the pictures until I felt this tug on my coat which was my associate asking me if I was done with my museum tour yet. Kind of caught off guard I replied yes however I told her that I would like to walk down Fourth Street to the art galleries and perhaps visit the one that features Mr. Marion Warren’s photographs.

 

A Vinyl Banner Of A Picture Of Marion E Warren In Front Of The Eastport Gallery In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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As I stood in front of the Eastport Gallery there on Fourth Street I found myself once again staring but this time it was at a picture of Mr. Warren that hangs on a life size white vinyl canvas from an outside stair case wall. The picture on this banner is that of an older Mr. Warren sporting a full beard and a comfortable looking casual hat while he is holding his camera up to his eye getting ready to take a picture. In one sense the expression on his face seemed relaxed yet focused on the photograph that he was about to take while at the same time he also appeared to have a look of satisfaction about him in that everything was now ready for the shutter to be depressed. Once again though I was to find myself jostled back into reality by our creative director who had a look on her face that I am oh too familiar with so as she began to speak I mouthed the words that I knew my ears were about to hear which was “well are we going in or not?”

Actually the both of us have been in the Eastport Gallery before – the last time probably sometime earlier this year, so on the one hand it seemed that possibly nothing that we were about to see there that afternoon was going to be new to us. On the other hand I think the reason I wanted to go in again was to revisit some of his photographs except this time I felt a bit more knowledgeable about his work – how wrong I really was about that. My feelings that afternoon did included a sense that I was now more familiar with his life as a photographer and even though I have seen some of his better known photographs on an almost daily basis during my walks – like the ones on the brick walls off of West Street, today’s visit to the gallery was going to be a much more intimate experience for me.

 

The Outside Of The Eastport Gallery On Fourth Street In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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Before I go on about our visit to the gallery that day let me share with you how my interest and appreciation for Mr. Warren’s photography came about. Like others I have lived in different regions of the country over the years however no matter wherever I called home I always seemed to surround myself with friends and associates who were either artist themselves or possessed deep artistic like traits.

Back in the 1980’s a friend of mine from Maine had two passions outside of his work life with the first one being Reggae music and the other being a passion for the work of the photographer Ansel Adams. Kenny and I spent time over those years taking about music and the visual arts – where he would always seem to have books of pictures including a couple by Mr. Adams laying about the room. Mr. Adams predominately used black and white photographs to capture his nature scenes. Certainly this was a clean medium to use for it allowed for less of a distraction to the viewer of a photograph than multi-color ones. Overall I will say that Mr. Adam’s work held some interest for me at that time however I was also into a number of different types of artistic genres back then but upon reflection today I can see where a possible die was being cast for my future taste in photographic art.

Some of my other artistic friends in those days pursued photography as a creative outlet and it was during those pre-digital camera days that they had became very disciplined in the taking of photographs. It seemed to me that they spent more time setting up and waiting for a particular shot than actually taking it – somewhere on the order of two hundred to one in percentage terms of time used would be my guess. There was no such thing as Photoshop at that point so things like cropping and Gama adjustments that are performed as a matter of routine today were certainly not an option then.  In addition the cost of film and the expense associated with developing their pictures certainly limited the practice of taking multiple pictures of the same thing in the hope that at least one would turn out correctly.

At some point during this time frame I acquired a Minolta SLR camera and found myself taking pictures of scenes from the farm where I lived at the time. I went out on weekends and during the early morning hours taking pictures of an old dairy barn, a colonial era ordinary or tavern from the 1700’s, different species of wildlife that called the farm their home and finally of the farmers that worked the land where I lived.

 

Steaming Crabs In A Pot At Popes Creek In Charles County By Marion E Warren Circa 1963 Copyright © M. E. Warren Photography LLC

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Later in that decade I acquired my first digital camera, actually one of those original Apple cameras that possessed questionable resolution features, which allowed me the freedom to take more pictures. Fast forward now twenty years or so for Annapolis Maryland had become my home and I was once again out with my camera. Instead of pictures of the farm and it’s surroundings I was now walking the streets of my newly adopted city looking for that one perfect scene along with the right moment to take the picture. At this same time I was also reading more about the city’s history, its people as well as taking an interest in the maritime activities found along the waters surrounding Annapolis. It was during this time that I began to recognize that certain places, people and activities within the city truly defined what I was beginning to refer to as an Annapolis Experience. For others they referred to these things as local lifestyle activities and/or things unique to Annapolis but for me they were experiences.

So anyway it was back about six to seven years ago when I was discovering more about Annapolis that I first came across Mr. Warren’s photographs. While some people have been totally captivated by his photograph of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, that was set in the moonlight soon after it opened in 1952, for me though it was his pictures of the people of the Bay area and beyond that first and foremost drew me to his work. An example of one of these human subject pictures can be seen above which is titled Steaming Crabs, Pope’s Creek, Charles County, Maryland, c. 1963. To me I feel that Mr. Warren’s photographs of people are a sterling example of that old saying that one picture is worth a thousand words.

My appreciation for this aspect of his large body of work comes in part from seeing how he captured the deep lines on some of his subjects faces, their somewhat worn looking eyes – possibly because of the time spent in the fields or on the water and finally for the facial expressions that they show just as the shutter is being pressed. Yes these are some of the attributes of Mr. Warren’s work at least as far as I am concerned. In the years that I have been following Mr. Warren’s work his seemingly innate ability to capture in an image – whether it is of an individual, a building or a nature scene, without the need to alter the image continues to impress me.

Mr. William W. Warner, wrote a book in 1976 titled Beautiful Swimmers – Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. I read this book soon after it was published and Mr. William Warner’s prolific descriptions of the watermen – that he had endeared himself to, along with his vivid descriptions of the Bay area landscapes, provided a basis in my mind of what life was surely like for the people of the Bay in years past. So it was after re-reading Beautiful Swimmers about six years ago, along with having had the opportunity to explore more of Mr. Marion Warren’s body of work, that I realized that to me his work represented a different aspect of the black and white photography medium than that of Mr. Adams. Simply put Mr. Warren’s work is not that of Mr. Adams nor vise versa however Mr. Adams work is very well known while Mr. Warren’s work still continues to be discovered. Mr. Warren’s photography is the perfect companion to Mr. Warner’s writing for those who wish to really experience the people and places of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

Inside The Eastport Gallery In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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Well like my associate was asking me earlier “are we going inside the gallery at some point” so let’s do that right now. Upon ushering ourselves in the front door of the gallery we were greeted by a photograph of Mr. Warren that was leaning against a cabinet on the floor in which he was seen next to his camera. That photograph had been taken in black and white of course with the eyes of the artist seemingly looking out if front of us waiting to press the shutter on a picture but only if things were just right. You might note that I did not say that he was posing next to his camera because as one learns more about his work and approach to his subject then one will understand that posing was not a tool that he used to capture an image with. As we walked along the wall of framed pictures in the gallery we saw some of what people might refer to as his classic works, including scenes from Annapolis, the Chesapeake Bay and one shot at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in a slight fog. The more photographs that we looked at the more it was beginning to feel like we were stepping back in time during that moment when he pressed the shutter release.

There was already a couple in the gallery when we stepped inside and they were speaking with a lady who was busy showing them one of Mr. Warren’s unframed works from a stack on a table. The lady greeted us and then went back to talking with the couple that seemed to be focused on one particular photograph that was laid out in front of them at the time. We continued our look around the gallery spotting three or four old cameras that were possibly used by Mr. Warren during his career as well as numerous books of his. After about ten minutes or so the other couple exchanged farewells with the lady with whom they had been speaking.

 

Marion E. Warren Self Portrait In Annapolis Maryland Circa 2001 Copyright © M. E. Warren Photography LLC

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As it turns out that lady talking with the couple that had just left was actually Mr. Warren’s last assistant and business partner before he passed away in 2006 and she came over and introduced herself to us as Joanie Surette. Ms. Surette explained to us that she was the owner of the Eastport Gallery. What took place over the span of the next couple of hours was certainly something that I will remember for a long time to come. Soon we all began to talk about Mr. Warren’s photographs, both the ones on display in the gallery as well as others that we had seen or heard of elsewhere.

Ms. Surette shared with us more about both Mr. Warren’s work as well as a few particular moments in his life. It was early on in our conversation that Saturday afternoon that we learned that Ms. Surette was actually Mr. Warren’s assistant for the last five years of his life and now not only was she the proprietor of the gallery that features his work but was also a copyright holder of his photographs through an entity chartered to preserve them as well. We learned that one of Mr. Warren’s later projects in his lifetime was that of working on ways to ensure that his photographs would continue to be seen and collected by the public through archival digital photographs as well as original silver gelatin photographs made from the original negatives.

 

Joanie Surette Standing In Front Of A Wall Of Marion E. Warren's Photographs At The Eastport Gallery In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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Without getting into the details in this post suffice it to say that Mr. Warren seemed to understand the concept of the digital age and recognized that his work could be printed in an artistically accurate way, therefore allowing for more people to experience the photographs that he had taken over a span of sixty years. At the moment that Ms. Surette shared this information about their late work together with us my level of appreciation for him rose a bit more both as an artist and as an individual. Mr. Warren was at that point in his early 80’s schooled in the skills of photography in the 1930’s and 40’s yet he also had the insight as to how digital imaging technology could make his work available for generations to come. Ms. Surette’s oral histories of those times seemed to flesh out a portrait of him that had already been developing in my mind. Yes Mr. Warren was a traditional photographer who developed his own pictures, worked to save photographs older than himself in the name of preservation, an environmentalist, and a visionary yet also a seemingly humble practical man.

Ms. Surette not only took the time to share with us her experiences with Mr. Warren that afternoon but also some insight as to the kind of person that he was as well as how early experiences in his life influenced his approach to photography. Our conversations included stories about some of the people in the photographs that we were looking at. It was interesting to hear about in one shot Mr. Warren had setup his camera for a particular shot over on Clay Street in Annapolis and then walked away from his equipment until the moment was right and the people in the scene were no longer posing for the camera.

 

Joanie Surette Of The Eastport Gallery Taking A Moment In Annapolis Maryland December 3rd 2011

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All in all the afternoon seemed like it just flew by for me because it was almost time for Ms. Surette to close the gallery for the day yet she did not seem to be edging us out the door either. However out of respect for the hour and the amount of time that we had taken up caused us to get up and begin to move towards the door on our own volition. As we made our way from the back of the gallery towards the front door we saw some color paintings by other artists and asked Ms. Surette about those as well. She explained to us that having been a member of the Annapolis artist community for years she believes that artists need multiple venues in which they can show their work to the public.

Ms. Surette added that she holds exhibits for artists from time to time through out the year and is actually having one this coming Saturday December 10th from 3 PM to 10 PM. I pointed out that was the same night as when the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade was being held over at Annapolis Harbor. She said yes that she was aware of that however her thought was why not hold the exhibit reception during those hours so that if people wanted to stop in and view the exhibit, which by the way will be featuring paintings by Martin Hough, either before or after the event than why not.

Okay we finally made our way back out on to Fourth Street and upon reflection it seems that we certainly had been in the right place at the right time that afternoon in terms of being able to spend time with Mr. Warren’s work and had learned more about the man himself. For me I know that I will be back to Ms. Surette’s gallery to see more of Mr. Warren’s work and hopefully make up my mind us to which of his photographs will become the first one in my Marion E Warren collection.

In closing we would like to thank Ms. Joanie Surette of the Eastport Gallery for all of the time that she spent with us this past weekend and also for sharing some of her experiences with Mr. Warren both as his business partner and his friend. Additionally we would like to thank Ms. Surette and the M. E. Warren Photography, LLC, which is the sole copyright holder of The Marion E. Warren Photography Collections, for providing us with the pictures, Steaming Crabs, Pope’s Creek, Charles County, Maryland, c. 1963 and Marion E. Warren, self–portrait, Annapolis, Maryland, 2003, as well as for granting us permission to use them in this blog post.

Finally we would like to remind everyone of the exhibit reception being held at the Eastport Gallery this coming Saturday December 10th between 3 PM and 10 PM. The Eastport Gallery is located at 419 Fourth Street in the Eastport district of Annapolis Maryland.

We hope to see you there before, during or after the Eastport Yacht Club’s Lights Parade.

Thank you for spending your afternoon with me,

Glenn

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6 comments to A Late Lunch in Eastport and a Visit to the Eastport Gallery • Marion E. Warren A True Annapolis Experience

  • Darlene Sanders Harris

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Warren’s time lapse photograph of the Bay Bridge is my all time favorite, both for its forward thinking technology, artistic vision, and subject. I owned a framed print but sadly lost it. Someday I hope to once more hang a copy in my home. In the meantime, I took great pleasure in reading about your day “with” Marion Warren.

  • Sandy

    I have a numbered Rosie Parks skipjack photo by Warren and love his artwork as I love to take pictures.He was fabulous

  • Deb

    I have a number of Marion Warren original photography that someone is interested in purchasing, how can I obtain the value? Thanks!

  • Anna Maria

    Glenn-

    Where can we view Marion Warren’s photographs now in person? We’ve seen the electronic versions on the MD Archives website, put we’d really like to be able to look at and appreciate them with our own eyes, up close and personal. Is that possible anywhere any more?

    Thanks-
    Anna Maria

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