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Far and Away
Michael McCarthy | Photo: Fred Maroon | April 29, 2014
Late DC photographer Fred Maroon’s timeless fashion-travel images come home.
During the height of the Cold War, the idea of slipping into Mongolia to stage a fashion shoot was borderline absurd and nearly impossible. But if you were a determined London editor teamed with a freelancer photographer who’d shot post-World War II reconstruction, the impediments were dwarfed by ambition. The 1966 journey would produce what are now considered iconic fashion images—all shot by Washington photographer Fred Maroon, who died in 2001 and whose rare fashion work is gaining interest among collectors.
“Fred Maroon had never shot a single frame of fashion before 1966,” says Peggy Sparks, owner of Artist’s Proof Gallery in Georgetown. Her space has teamed up with Maroon’s heirs to display and sell 20 pieces of his work this May. “John Anstey, who was editor of London’s Weekend Telegraph magazine, liked Fred’s travel images. So he called Fred and invited him to his office. Anstey pulled out a bottle of scotch, and things grew chummy as the bottle drained. Fred was convinced to fly to the outer reaches of Mongolia for a shoot, and they hatched a scheme.” Maroon, Anstey and their crew were able to enter the former Soviet Union by passing themselves off as East Germans.
“My husband didn’t want to be an omelet-maker—doing the same thing for the rest of his life,” says Maroon’s widow, Suzy, who still lives in Georgetown. “Yes, he’d never done fashion, but he figured he could shoot couture as well as the next guy. He loved these fashion shoots and these exotic places.” Suzy pauses and begins to laugh. “Plus, he got to be with gorgeous women, so what’s not to like?”
After the Mongolia images ran, interest in Maroon’s work among other editors grew for a few years. He ventured to other locales—including Afghanistan, Japan and even closer to the seat of Soviet power, Moscow—for magazines like Look. The accomplished freelancer then moved on to different subjects, including the Nixon White House. “I’d only seen the political images Fred had shot,” says Sparks. “So, when I saw the fashion photography, it blew my mind. The images tell stories of a lost time—especially with the exaggerated poses of the models and the shots in prewar Afghanistan—but they feel very contemporary. It’s amazing that these were done with no artificial light. He had the gift of capturing the essence of a place.”
Travel’s great affair is to simply move and let the landscapes unfold, and Suzy says her husband understood that premise. “There was a mystery to the places where he shot,” she says. “But Fred also knew that the stories behind our journeys are just as interesting.” Limited-run prints from $1,800, May 17-June 1, 3323 Cady's Alley NW, 202.803.2782