1950 was a watershed year for the young Fred J. Maroon. In the space of six weeks he graduated from college, was hired by Life Magazine in New York, and was awarded a scholarship to do graduate architectural studies at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Life Magazine, on learning of the Beaux-Arts scholarship, strongly encouraged Maroon to accept it, and offered to make him a "stringer" in Life's Paris bureau for the year he was to spend there.
Upon arrival at the Beaux-Arts that September he was told that, due to the unusually large number of students, he was expected to complete only every other six-week design project, and would be free to do as he wished for the six weeks between projects. Maroon decided that when he wasn't doing assignments for Life Magazine he would spend his off-time touring and photographing every country in Europe that was not behind the Iron Curtain, with the intention of one day producing a book.
The images he made show Europe at a period when it had not yet recovered from the ravages of World War II. The people and places are seen through the eyes of a young American war veteran, fresh out of university, curious yet unsophisticated, as he intuitively reacted to the scenes he witnessed. Maroon was undeterred by the distrust many Europeans felt towards outsiders carrying cameras, even though he was arrested and jailed four times. Having "Student" listed as his occupation in his American passport undoubtedly helped him avoid more serious consequences. In Yugoslavia he was constantly under surveillance by a one-armed man; only decades later did a former C.I.A. agent and friend tell him that the man was in fact notorious, and was nicknamed "The Executioner."
Upon Maroon's return to the United States in 1951 his European portfolio attracted the attention of Edward Steichen, the legendary director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Steichen selected a number of his images to be included in a 1953 exhibition entitled "Always the Young Strangers." This coincided with the era of the "big magazines," before television became king. Word quickly spread, and soon Maroon was in demand by many of the leading magazines of the day, eclipsing any plans he had to become an architect.
Now, fifty years later, his early work shows the embryonic talent that made him Washington D.C.'s pre-eminent photographer, with twelve books to his credit.