Luis Marden: Italian of the Week


On January 25, 1913, Annibale Luigi Paragallo was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. As a teenager, he taught himself six different languages, including Egyptian hieroglyphics. He enrolled in a photography class in high school and fell in love with the medium. When he was 19, he wrote what is considered to be the first book on 35mm color photography called Color Photography with the Miniature Camera. Instead of attending college, he freelanced as a photographer and worked at a radio station. Arguing his current name was too difficult for a radio audience, the station manager suggested a change. The two opened a phone book and decided upon Luis Marden.

Luis had a long career with National Geographic that started on July 23, 1934. When he was first hired, he successfully convinced his coworkers to use lightweight and small Leica cameras loaded with Kodachrome film instead of heavy and bulky equipment of the time. During the 1950s, Luis was assigned to Latin and South America. While on breaks, he started to dive and decided that the underwater world needed to be photographed. He became friends with Jacques Cousteau, and the two worked together to create techniques still used in underwater color photography. Shortly thereafter, Luis was loaned to NASA and photographed rocket launches and the Project Mercury astronauts.


Besides being known for his photography, Luis also made several discoveries. In the 1970s, he discovered a new type of orchid as well as a deep water parasitic crustacean. His report of an underwater florescence related to a sea anemone in the Red Sea was the first published report of its kind. He also retraced Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World and challenged popular theories of where the explorer landed. Perhaps his most important discovery was in January 1957, when, while diving off the coast of Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, he discovered the remains of Captain Bligh’s HMS Bounty – the ship made famous for its mutiny.

Luis Marden passed away on March 3, 2003. His discoveries and his contributions to photography continue to have an impact.

Sources: National Geographic, National Geographic Icon, The New York Times

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