Between the Covers
by Steve Carr, Marion Warren & Eric Smith & The Annapolis Publishing Company
Reviewed by Sandra Martin
The Greek philosopher who alleged the unexamined life not worth living may have carried a good thought to the extreme. But theres something to be said for the obverse, as readers and browsers of Waterviews will clearly see. Life as shown in this new collection of reflections is exquisitely worth living. Out just in time for Christmas, the new book of old work by a trio of local reflectors is also exquisitely worth giving.
Ostensibly, Annapolis is the subject of their reflections, but Carr and Warrens work spreads out to Chesapeake Country, water in general and, finally, their own past.
Marion Warrens photographs many of them unfamiliar and some never before reproduced would alone make the 107-page soft-cover book worth its $42 price tag. But youll get far more for your money. With Warrens 35 large black-and-white plates (plus front and back cover) come 20 essays by Steve Carr, now a columnist for Bay Weekly, and 31 cartoons by Eric Smith, whose editorial penwork has enlivened The Capital for 30 years.
Their media are so diverse that Smith initially pooh-poohed the collaboration, claiming it impossible for photos, essays and cartoons to get together without stepping on one anothers toes. In fact, they dont scrunch one another or step on your toes because each is about the same thing: Enhancing life by reflecting it in its sweet, simple and complex vitality. Meandering these handsome pages, you see lifes grain.
Its a no-brainer with three men of your notoriety, essayist Carr remembers Katherine Burke as saying in committing her Annapolis Publishing Company to Waterviews. Well-known and respected men, is how Burke herself styles the trio. Three years in the making, the book makes a case for both points of view.
With their outspoken opinionating, Carr and Smith are indeed notorious. Sure theres a tender side to them, and more than a bit of it is exposed in this collection. But put an issue on the table, and both of them promptly fillet it. As an editorial cartoonist, Smiths living depends on drawing sharp lines that need few words to make their point. Environmental consultant Carr opinionates for fun: roaring, grousing and rhapsodizing.
Youll hear all those voices in Waterviews selection from the five or six dozen essays Carr wrote through much of the 1990s for Severn River Log, the monthly newsletter of the Severn River Association. (Some have since been reprinted in Bay Weekly.)
My neighbors are stealing my property, he roars in Help! Help! Im Drowning, on the subject of bulkheads.
Over half the town gets a free ride, he grouses on the subject of who pays taxes and who doesnt in Annapolis Is Home.
We would fill our jars with the glowing bugs, giggling hysterically at the magical power of possessing something so wondrous and yet fragile, he rhapsodizes in You Light up My Life, on the subject of fireflies. Autumn, dogs, the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights are treated in the same tone, showing Carr more as the Teddy than the grizzly bear in this collection.
At least as well known and just as irrepressibly reflective as his collaborators is Marion Warren, whose shutter has been snapping for more than 60 years. But the pictures hes made in all those years reflect lifes fame rather than its notoriety. Theres an awesome quiet in each of them, even as waves crash and foam, as if this captured moment were all there is to life and its enough.
Indeed, thats been Warrens philosophy of creation throughout his long career. Capturing life is the most vital thing photography can do: documenting the real life of people, their real existence, he told Bay Weekly in 1998.
That celebration of transience is the more poignant this year, when Warren turned 83, enjoying a birthday party with Gov. Robert Ehrlich; lost Mary, his wife through seven decades; persevered through health trials of his own; and with his lifes work preserved and catalogued in the Maryland State Archives started making color prints. In Waterviews, youll trace Warrens life and art back to 1941, when he was a smart journeyman learning his trade. Here, too, are Marion and Mary as newlyweds, and the Warren children growing up, happily serving as models as they played on the beach in Ocean City. The most recent photo was shot in Leons Barbershop in Eastport in 1990. But just this year, Warren printed his wonderful 1980 rear shot of a couple riding their motorcycle across the old Severn River Bridge.
At first, I wondered why this Annapolis book strayed back to Warrens early days in Missouri, the cobblestones of St. Louis and the fields of Farmington. Ive figured it out.
Waterviews is sold at Hard Bean Bookstore, Historical Annapolis Foundation Museum Shop, Barnes & Noble and Bay Trading in Annapolis Mall as well as from Carr most nights at Sean Donlons.
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