Northern Lights

Ann Marsden: Finding the light

  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 10:56 PM

Photographer Ann Marsden, 55, revealed beauty in everything from the mundane to the extraordinary.

People bared their souls to her long lens.

In technical terms, Ann Marsden's images were marked by evocative lighting and refined composition.

But what made the people she photographed appear so striking is how much her pictures revealed of them. From people on the street to aspiring performers, from children to President Obama, Marsden drew them out and then, click-click, captured their essence.

She worked hard at getting her subjects to relax, recording mix tapes to ease them as she got the pose, the lights, the background just right.

Her subjects rewarded her with honesty, openness and truth.

"Her sessions were like music, and like music, she seduced, she amused and she'd teach," said raconteur and performer Kevin Kling at an August memorial. "She got past the borders into...the birthplace of the spark, the flash and then, 'OK, I got it.' She'd say, 'we're done.' And then you'd get the photograph and show everyone: See, I told you that's what I look like."

White hair trimmed in a neat bob, she identified strongly with the character Scout from her favorite film and novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." She had a soft spot for underdogs and an eye for finding beauty in unexpected places, operating her northeast Minneapolis business on a sliding scale.

Explorer Ann Bancroft grew up with her in St. Paul and recalls arriving at the studio with reservations. Soon Marsden worked her magic: "I forgot the long lens and just as I forgot myself, she found it -- the picture was made."

A photographer's legacy lives on in framed images on shelves, in actors' portfolios, on Facebook pages.

"They can still send their light," Kling observed, "even though they stop burning."

ROHAN PRESTON

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