Tom Darden was born and raised in West Annapolis, Maryland. He spent his first four years of education in a four room wooden school house. From his earliest memories, Tom passion was with the workings of all things mechanical. Intrigued by the engine hoist in his uncle, “Unk” Amos’s junkyard, his early adventures includes being a grease monkey and rebuilding a ’54 Oldsmobile engine at the tender age of 12
A few years later, he picked up a camera and started shooting family and friends, and taking animal portraits. His interest in the visual arts led him to a five-year apprenticeship followed by an 11-year stint as a journeyman printer, doing hot metal printing and hand setting type for books and newspapers. As a journeyman printer for the Washington Post and the Evening Star, he volunteered to go out on photo shoots at every turn when the full-time photo staff was strapped.
Tom graduated from the New York Institute of Photography in 1970. As a free-lance photographer in 1972, Tom shot photos for Marjorie Holt’s campaign for Congress, which caught the eye of Lee Troutner, Maryland’s official state photographer. Thus began a remarkable career as a fixture around the outside of Maryland’s inner political circle for the next three decades – serving as a photographer for six Maryland governors, Governors Marvin Mandel, Blair Lee, Harry Hughes, William Donald Schaefer, Paris Glendenning or Robert Ehrlich rarely appeared at any official function without Tom Darden only a camera click away. Tom ended his career as the personal and chief photographer for his personal favorite governor, Bob Ehrlich.
His career as photographer for these six Maryland governors gave him the opportunity to photograph nearly every inch of the state of Maryland; national and international dignitaries from Pope John Paul, the Vice Premier of China and the Archbishop of Canterbury to movie stars and movie premiers, musicians, national and statewide politicians. He has taken photos of every president from Gerald Ford to George Bush, Jr. His photos have been in national, international and regional publications including National Geographic, Newsweek and the NY Times. He has freelanced for both Associated Press and United Press International.
Tom also worked as the photographer for the National State Employees Association annual conventions and the Maryland Classified Employees Association for 25 years. He has fond memories of photographing the 1989 World Kayak and Canoe Championship on Western Maryland’s Savage River. That experience began his love of the mountainside of Maryland, Western Maryland.
Tom has received hundreds of citations from cities, counties, the state of Maryland and Congress. Tom was the first to videotape international sailboat races on the Chesapeake Bay followed by a month videoing world championship races in England. He has captured the heart and soul of Maryland. Maybe that’s why he was named Admiral of the Chesapeake and made an honorary DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) Ranger. One of his proudest awards is the Maryland Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the highest civilian award in Maryland, for his participation in Maryland’s effort to help New Orleans and surrounding areas recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Upon his retirement from the State of Maryland in January 2007, Tom donated thousands of his images to the Maryland State Archives, as a gesture of gratitude for the opportunity he received to make a living doing something he so passionately loves.
Vacations have been spent in a motor home or on one of his various motorcycles, traveling throughout the United States. He has visited all lower 48 states taking his camera wherever he went and shooting the striking beauty that is America. In his remarkable career, the real question is – what hasn’t Tom accomplished as a world class photographer?
Dardenimages.com is designed as a resource for those who enjoy the richness of Maryland’s heritage, the striking beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and the unique geology of the Southwestern U.S., the charm of New England and the vibrancies of nature. The collection at Dardenimages.com is a vibrant changing landscape to which Tom makes continued additions as he enjoys retirement in the Maryland Mountains, travels and spends time with his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.