Stephen Longley, commercial photographer, dies

Stephen Thomas Longley, a prominent commercial photographer in Baltimore’s advertising and marketing scene who was among the earliest to embrace digital technology, died Sept. 12 at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Longley, who was born in Baltimore and had lived in Roland Park for 18 years, died of complications from lung cancer. He was 69.


“He was the quintessential artistic commercial photographer,” said Allan Charles, an acquaintance of nearly 40 years and chairman and chief executive officer of the TBC advertising agency, where Mr. Longley was hired as photographer-in-residence in 2004. “The things that he shot — they were commercial works of art, but they were works of art.”

Born at MedStar Union Memorial on Christmas Day 1948, Mr. Longley was the son of Thomas Stephen Longley, a Navy pilot during World War II, and Elizabeth Ann Longley, a homemaker.


Mr. Longley came by his love of photography honestly, said his wife, Margot Amelia. His mother’s family had an “interesting artistic tendency,” she said; his great-grandfather, Sam Barnes, was a noted decoy carver whose work is displayed at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. And his father, who gave Mr. Longley his first camera, very much enjoyed slide photography.

“The fact that he could make a living” taking pictures “absolutely amused him,” Ms. Amelia said of her husband.

A 1965 graduate of Edgewood High School in Harford County and a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, Mr. Longley attended Baltimore’s Calhoon MEBA Engineering School, the first national maritime training plan designed by union and industry. He later served in the U.S. Merchant Marines, on duty in the Indian Ocean and Africa.

Returning to Baltimore, Mr. Longley started work at the Johns Hopkins catheterization lab, taking pictures of hearts for medical purposes — a job that flamed his interest in photography and launched him on a career.

Mr. Longley worked as an assistant to Baltimore photographers David Simpson and Stan Flint, then in the late 1970s began his own firm, Longley Studios. He specialized in large-format food and people photography; his clients included Sweetheart Cup Corp., Corning Glass, McCormick & Co. and San Giorgio. He also photographed for Harrah’s and Trump casinos and Choice Hotels.

Beginning in the 1980s, Mr. Longley traveled the country for the Army and Air National Guard, photographing citizen soldiers for advertisements and promotional brochures.

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“Stephen was a master craftsman of lighting,” said Mr. Charles, who hired his friend at TBC, where his clients included the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Smart Balance, Visit Baltimore, Connections Academy and the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Whether it was film or stills, the quality of the light and the beauty of the light is what makes [his work] terrific.”

He was also never afraid of advancing technology, Mr. Charles said — a willingness to embrace the new that proved especially valuable as photography began transitioning from traditional film to digital.


“He started seeing the writing on the wall, that digital was going to be the thing,” Mr. Charles said. “Not only was he a master photographer, but he was a master of the technology and the equipment. He was always ahead of the curve on that.”

Mr. Longley retired in 2017.

An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Longley enjoyed sailing (completing the race from Annapolis to Bermuda several times), white-water canoeing and kayaking, competitive pistol shooting and long-range rifle, his wife said. He also enjoyed riding his BMW motorcycle.

In addition to his wife of nine years, Mr. Longley is survived by his sister, Ann Elizabeth Longley of Maine. Earlier marriages to Susan Janicelli and Rose Jirsa ended in divorce.

Planning for a celebration of life before the end of the year is underway, Ms. Amelia said.