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As I unwrap Fred J. Maroon’s book of photographs, Maroon on Georgetown, a co-worker takes it from my hands and asks, “Is The Photo in here?” She flips through and suddenly stops. “Yeah, here it is,” she says, pointing to an image of a couple walking up snowbound Wisconsin Avenue. “I know these people.” In The Photo, the old Georgetown movie theaternow a jewelry exchangesits to the left; a blue trash can peeks out from a snow drift on the right. Groups of people wander the street. The Photo, taken during the blizzard of February ’79, has become a Washington institution, a Norman Rockwell-like rendering of life in the colonial village. It has been reproduced and sold as posters, prints, lithographs, note cards you name it.
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Maroon himself has grown a bit tired of The Photo, and he’s trying to move beyond it. Maroon on Georgetown, first published in 1985, has just been reissued by Lickle Publishing, with new sections featuring landmarks such as Washington Harbour and Tudor Place. Maroon’s images cover the many dimensions of the neighborhood, from precious residential interiors to the dramatic roof of Georgetown Visitation School to the gardens and antiquities of Dumbarton Oaks.
Maroon studied architecture at Catholic University after World War II, but he was hired to be a photographer for Life magazine when an editor saw his work in the university’s yearbook. He has lived in Georgetown for over 30 years, and friendships begun as a photographer for Life, Look, and Holiday helped him gain entry to some of the neighborhood’s fanciest houses: those of Ben Bradlee, Dean Acheson, and Claiborne Pell.
He chose his locations not just for aesthetic reasons, but for their cultural significance, too. “In the case of Dumbarton Oaks…certainly there are no gardens like them anywhere else in Washington, with the same variety and beauty,” he says. But more significantly, he adds, the United Nations was first hatched on the groundsplus, it’s open to the public.
Of all his booksabout the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the Navy, even Egypthe considers Maroon on Georgetown his most personally satisfying. Yet he hopes readers will remember works of his other than The Photo: “When you’ve done 11 books like I have, that people identify you with a single photograph is a little demoralizing,” Maroon admits. “It has just become so sentimental, symbolic of what people ideally would like to think the world, or actually just Georgetown, is all about.”Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa