Ann Marsden, 55, a lifelong St. Paulite and photographer of record for Twin Cities actors, musicians, writers and artists for 30 years, died this weekend. Two years after her initial diagnosis, she succumbed to cervical cancer on Sunday evening with loved ones by her side, according to press reports.
Marsden has been a fixture in the local performing arts scene for decades, just off-stage with her camera, immortalizing the theatrical work and artists of Penumbra Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, Jungle Theater, the Guthrie and more with her unforgettable shots. She was best known, though, for her distinctive portraiture. In addition to capturing images of local artists, Marsden has also photographed national figures, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Stephen King, Bill Cosby.
An Ann Marsden portrait is immediately recognizable as such, and not just for its effective composition and lighting, although she’s always been deft at both. It’s the preternatural candor of her shots that arrests your eye, the loving way her lens lingers on an unexpected subtlety of expression. Looking at her portraits – whether created for commercial, editorial or documentary purposes – you sense instantly that she’s captured something ineffable but true, even essential, about her subject. And her subjects – actors, musicians, artists and writers, here and across the country, but also ordinary citizens – have loved her for the warmth of that penetrating attention, to them and to their work.
Ever the documentarian, Marsden also arranged for her battle with illness and eventual decline to be captured in a series images, made available online to provide a candid record of her experience living with cancer. (You can see those photographs here: www.forloveofannie.com.)
Read a collection of heartfelt community tributes to Marsden’s life and career on Minnesota Public Radio’s “State of the Arts” blog and in recent articles published by the “Minneapolis Star-Tribune” and “St. Paul Pioneer Press.” See more on her website: http://www.annmarsden.com. To hear her discuss her work, in her own words, watch the 2009 video interview embedded above (hat tip to MPR’s Marianne Combs for the link).