Award-winning Sun photographer Hans Marx, 83

January 16, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Hans Marx, a former Sunpapers photographer whose memorable sepia-toned images graced the pages of The Sun, The Evening Sun and the Sunday Sun Magazine for nearly two decades, died in his sleep Tuesday at his residence in Lewes, Del., where he had lived since 1965. He was 83.

An award-winning photojournalist who was widely exhibited in his prime, Mr. Marx was once described by a colleague as "firing a camera with the accuracy of Jesse James."

Mr. Marx, who used a Speed Graphic or a Leica camera, became a staff photographer for the Sunpapers in 1937. He joined the staff of the newly created Sunday Sun Magazine in 1946.

A solidly built man with a cherubic smile and pencil-thin mustache who favored tweed suits, bow ties and broad-brimmed hats, Mr. Marx seemed to personify the dashing press photographer of his era. He was profiled by Newsweek magazine in 1954.

"The news business was very romantic to him, and it was something he talked about until the end of his life," said his son, Hans S. Marx of Tacoma, Wash.

After leaving the Sunpapers in 1955, Mr. Marx established Assignment Photographic with such clients as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Moran Towing and the Curtis Bay Towing Co.

He retired in 1965.

Covering spot news or roaming the back roads of Maryland, Mr. Marx brought back distinctive pictures that told stories.

"Marx is a great photographer, whether it be feature, news, portraits or other kinds of photographs, because first of all he likes people and observes them closely not only as a photographer but as a sympathetic human being," Paul Broderick, an Evening Sun editor, said in the Newsweek profile.

Edwin P. Young, then city editor of The Sun, told Newsweek, "I am a sucker for good photographers. They can make or break a page. There are more good ones than most people realize. But Hans Marx is one of the best. He is usually not only the best photographer on the job but also the best reporter as well.

"And on a quiet day you can send him out with a camera and without an idea of your own. Marx will come back with a picture and then you can send out a reporter and go to work on the story. This is rare. So is Marx. In fact, he may be unique."

Walter McCardell, a retired Sun photographer and colleague, said yesterday, "He was good pictorially and had a great eye for beauty."

"He was a perfectionist who went out and got what he wanted," said Joseph A. DiPaola Jr., also a retired Sun photographer.

Unlike his chief competitor, A. Aubrey Bodine, who had many of the same photographic interests, Mr. Marx refrained from the darkroom magic that gave Mr. Bodine's pictures their distinctive, at times manipulated, quality.

"Essentially, I am a photojournalist. My principal aim is to record those vignettes of life as I stumble upon them or they upon me. And how often I have failed to have a camera with me. Contrived pictorialism I have never been guilty of -- to my way of thinking that is not the true function of the camera," Mr. Marx told Newsweek.

The son of a silversmith, Mr. Marx, who was born and raised in Overlea, attended Fullerton High School and first picked up the camera as a teen-ager.

"He was self-taught and had an artistic eye," said his daughter, Marlene Malcan of Midlothian, Va.

"He was a daredevil when it came to getting the right picture, and nothing stopped him. He climbed the girders of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and one time had the door removed from an airplane. He then strapped himself in and leaned way out to photograph the bridge," said the daughter.

On a trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the Gorch Fock, a three-masted, 293-foot German bark, Mr. Marx dropped below the ship's bowsprit in a type of hammock and began shooting as the waves soaked him.

"It was like he could anticipate a picture before it happened," said his son.

Mr. Marx, who was in the merchant marine during World War II, was a devoted fan of steamships and railroads and spent his life collecting memorabilia, which he installed in his home.

"He grew up in the steam era, and it fascinated him. Anything that was propelled by steam, such as trains and ships. They were labor-intensive, and he loved the noises, clouds of steam and smoke. He lamented the invention of the diesel engine," the son said.

Mr. Marx received recognition for his work from the National Press Photographers Association, the International Salon of Sporting Photographs and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which named him Newspaper, Photographer of the Year in 1953.

In recent years, he enjoyed an occasional cigar and beer and liked talking about his newspaper days with friends who visited his home. He also liked to travel.

In 1940, he married Frieda Stephan, who died in 1983.

Services for Mr. Marx will be held at 1 p.m. today at Parsell Funeral Home, 1449 Kings Highway in Lewes.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Marx is survived by a sister, Ruth Kuck of Midlothian, Va.; two grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Hugh B. Cameron, 61, truck driver, warehouseman

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