Neena Tolley Ewing, photographed horses, children

August 14, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Neena Tolley Ewing, who was known for her equine photography and portraits of children, died Saturday of undetermined causes at St. Joseph Medical Center. The 45-year-old was a resident of Corbett.

Mrs. Ewing became fascinated with photography as a child in her parents' Monkton home where her father, a naval officer and amateur photographer, had a darkroom.

A 1968 graduate of the Bryn Mawr School, the former Neena Tolley earned her bachelor's degree in Russian in 1972 from Goucher College.

"She came to my office one day on the recommendation of a trainer and I hired her to do makeup and work as a backup photographer," recalled W. Snowden Carter, retired editor of Maryland Horse, where Mrs. Ewing's photos have been a mainstay of the magazine for nearly 25 years.

In addition to her work for Maryland Horse, she contributed to such horse magazines as Chronicle, Spur, Maryland Saddlery, Journeyman and Chaps. Her photos also were published in catalogs, including most recently the fall/winter issue of "Patagonia for Kids," which featured a full-page color picture of her daughter riding across a snowy landscape on one of the family's horses.

She often used her three daughters as models in her photographs, and her annual Christmas card featuring her daughters was much anticipated by family friends and business associates.

"One year she took her pony, Snippet, into the house and posed the girls and the horse surrounded by a wreath," said Lucy Acton, editor of Maryland Horse. "They were just wonderful."

As an accomplished athlete, horsewoman and photographer, it was this combination that gave her work a depth and uniqueness.

"She was such a perfectionist and she put her heart and soul into her work," said Mrs. Acton. "She thought every picture was important and she was a consummate professional who always went the extra mile to get the picture she wanted."

Because of her intimate knowledge of horses and the racing world, Mrs. Ewing was never at a loss when it came time to get the right picture, even if it meant climbing a tree or a platform, or standing on a roof.

"The late Skip Ball, who was our staff photographer for 15 years, was her mentor and she built on what he had taught her," Mr. Carter said.

Mrs. Ewing was especially good at photographing stallions in the formal pose that is known as "the confirmation of stallions," always a difficult undertaking because the horse has to be posed in a special way -- all four feet showing and a certain look in the eye.

"She would take countless pictures until she got what she wanted. She also had her own little tricks, whether it was rattling a child's toy or quickly opening and shutting an umbrella in order to get the horse's attention," said Mr. Carter with a laugh.

Known as a driven person who could at times be temperamental, Mrs. Ewing was described by friends as being very personable.

She was remembered by Mrs. Acton as a person who "lived life to the fullest and was always on the go. She always seemed to be going 110 mph."

Using a Nikon 35 mm camera in her work, Mrs. Ewing easily made the transition from photographing horses to people, especially children.

"She was very patient and skilled and was able to put her subjects at ease while capturing the essence of their personalities," said Philip Franke, a brother-in-law who lives in Homeland.

Born in Portsmouth, Va., Mrs. Ewing was married in 1977 to Michael J. Ewing, president of Williams, Jackson, Ewing Inc., a Baltimore real estate development firm.

She lived with her husband and daughters in a 19th-century farmhouse in the Baltimore County village of Corbett, near Monkton, where she enjoyed cooking and entertaining.

Mrs. Ewing also was a voracious reader who often would collect and read every book on a subject that had caught her attention.

In addition to training ponies and riding, she was a member of the women's tennis team at the Elkridge Club.

Services for Mrs. Ewing were held yesterday at St. James Episcopal Church in Monkton, where she was a member.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by three daughters, Tolley Marie Ewing, Alexandra Lynn Ewing and Isabelle Kemp Ewing, all at home; her parents, retired Rear Admiral Kemp and Vlada Tolley of Monkton; a sister, Svietlana Tolley Franke of Homeland; and three nieces.

Memorial contributions may be made to Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson 21204.

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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