Though Don Marquess has been a fine art photographer for more than 25 years, when he went off to college at the University of Missouri and St. Louis University, photography didn't even factor into his career plans-he studied music. "I was going to be one of the world's greatest French hornists," he says with a laugh. But thanks to friends who were involved in photography, Marquess caught the photo bug himself, and soon began developing art photographs. After completing his studies at St. Louis University and working at Missouri Brick & Supply Co., which his father founded in 1960, he studied photography in a continuing education program and developed his color-intensive style in fine art.
After winning numerous local and national photo competitions, Marquess became a professional photographer in 1979, selling his prints primarily to corporate clients. In 1982, his piece, "Harlequin In Venice," received an honor award from Kodak and was retained as part of a Kodak exhibit that traveled the country.
Marquess uses a 35-millimeter Contax camera for all his photographs, and credits the Zeiss lenses he uses, made with German glass, as "the real secret to that camera. It's the best glass in the whole world." Also contributing to the clarity and brilliance of Marquess' images are his use of very slow 50 ASA film, and his insistence on shooting everything handheld, without a tripod, in natural light.
In 1992, EverColor, a California company, developed a process called pigment transfer, in which digital scans of images are transferred to non-light reactive paper, with the colors laid on top of the paper, rather than the paper reacting to them. To demonstrate the quality of the prints they were producing, EverColor assembled "Moments in Time," a portfolio of photographs using this process, and selected Marquess' photographs of hot air balloons to be part of the collection, which featured only ten photographers from across the country.
The pigment transfer process and his appearance in this portfolio increased Marquess' national visibility. This heightened exposure allowed him to open his gallery, located in Plaza Frontenac in suburban St. Louis, in 1993, where for the first time the public could view and purchase his prints in a gallery setting.
In 1998, inspired by St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire's pursuit of the major league home run record, Marquess, a lifelong baseball fan, took his first photographs of baseballs. Just four days after Marquess hung the prints "The Balls of Summer," "Old Glory," "Patriot" and "Smokin'" in his Plaza Frontenac gallery, McGwire himself walked in for a visit. McGwire liked the prints and spread the word to his teammates; in the next few weeks, more than half of the Cardinals team visited the gallery and bought prints.
Since then, much of Marquess' focus has been on baseball photography. He was the exclusive photographer of Sammy Sosa's 66th home run ball and McGwire's 70th home run ball, his baseball prints hang in the homes and offices of players and front office personnel from more than 25 different Major League Baseball teams, and his baseball-themed prints, posters and cards are available in team gift shops and clubhouses across the country and at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
In April 2000, Marquess brought his gallery to historic Union Station in downtown St. Louis, where the business, with its focus now on baseball, has continued to grow.
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