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Chiles Larson '53: Seven decades of suspending action

  • A life-long passion
    A life-long passion  Chiles Larson (pictured here around age 17) published his first photo in the Virginian-Pilot at age 11. He later joined the paper as a staff photographer.  Photo courtesy of Chiles Larson
  • On assignment in Korea
    On assignment in Korea  In 1951, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a photographer during the Korean War. During his time there, he took this photo of Marilyn Monroe visiting troops.  Photo by Chiles Larson
  • Passion meets passion
    Passion meets passion  His interest in sailing provided great photographic opportunities for Larson, who published cover shots in Sail Magazine (seen here), Yachting and an America's Cup shot in Sports Illustrated.  Photo by Chiles Larson
  • Around the world
    Around the world  Larson has taken photos around the world. Seen here is a photo he took of Machu Picchu in Peru.  Photo by Chiles Larson
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The following article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of the William & Mary Alumni Magazine - Ed.

Although his full-time career was primarily in public relations, television news and advertising, Chiles T.A. Larson '53 has put just as much time and creativity into his avocation and first love - photography.

On April 5, the exhibition "Wisdom, Wonderment and Humor: A Retrospective of the Work of Chiles Larson, Photographer Extraordinaire" will open in the Botetourt Gallery of the Swem Library.

Larson, a longtime contributor to the Alumni Magazine, had his first photo published in a major newspaper at the age of 11, because he was fortunate to have the right connection. His dad, RKT "Kit" Larson, was an editor for the Virginian-Pilot at the time. In the late 1940s, Larson worked as a staff photographer for the paper. Above is a photo of Larson on assignment in Norfolk, Va., in 1947.

Some of the other images that will be on display in Swem include a July 4, 1951 award-winning photograph, "Storm Ends Holiday", which shows hundreds of bathers leaving the beach after a powerful Nor'easter struck. An image of the Varina-Enon Bridge over the James River was taken in the mid-1990s and highlights the range of subjects that Larson has captured.

One memorable event for Larson occurred during Marilyn Monroe's February 1954 visit to entertain the troops in Korea. He says it shows the photographer's eternal need to be resourceful. When Larson and his buddies arrived at the airfield where Monroe was to land, the tarmac, with a strip of red carpet, was packed on both sides with thousands of GIs. "After her plane landed, we decided to become a part of the official ramp movers, placing us ahead of even the news media for our shots," recalls Larson. For that, he was rewarded with the great close-up image shown bottom left.

The exhibit will close on May 28. For more information, please contact Bea Hardy, director of the Special Collections Research Center, at or 757.221.3054.