Sam Holden, a Baltimore-based photographer whose work appeared throughout the country, died Saturday after collapsing suddenly while doing yard work on his father's farm in Bel Air. He was 44.
Mr. Holden operated a studio in Little Italy and worked as a freelance photographer for both national and local publications such as Baltimore City Paper and Baltimore Magazine. He also taught Lighting Techniques for Photography at Towson University.
Born in Havre de Grace, Mr. Holden matriculated through the Harford County school system before graduating from C. Milton Wright High School. He received a bachelor's degree in photography at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, according to his father, Todd.
Mr. Holden's father, also a photographer, remembers his then-5-year-old son gravitating to a Mickey Mouse camera and later a Kodak 35 mm camera, which he gave him.
"He used to come into my dark room and stood on a milk crate with me as I processed film. He loved it," Todd Holden recalled. "He loved seeing a white piece of paper turn into an image. He also took some neat pictures as a little guy in grammar school."
It wasn't until he was a freshman in high school that Mr. Holden's father knew that his son was destined to become a photographer. It started with a conversation he had with his son's high school principal.
"He [son] didn't like high school a whole lot. The faculty didn't care too much for him," his father said. "He was a talented kid, but he was bored. So I went to the principal and asked if my son could take pictures for the school newspaper or yearbook, which was a privilege that was reserved for juniors and seniors."
His father convinced the principal to give him a tryout. The images were so good, they were published in both of the school's publications, and the young Mr. Holden was on staff.
"When he started seeing his work published, the fire was lit," his father said. "He was rolling. He was off and running. I knew then this is what he was destined to do."
From there, Mr. Holden's work grew. He particularly enjoyed working with traditional dark room techniques.
"From the hottest fetish model to the most wrinkled grandmother on the street corner, he loved faces and gestures," she said.
Mr. Holden particularly excelled photographing musicians—capturing images of local up and coming bands to established international acts such as Iggy Pop, Neil Diamond and Ani DiFranco, according to Ms. Sherman. He also photographed a number of Baltimore Ravens players and Hollywood stars including Emmy winner Jane Lynch of "Glee."
"He had a very unique relationship with a lot of rock musicians," she said. "It was the way he cultivated relationships with them. He wanted a personal connection and got in and impressed these guys."
Rosemary Thompson called Mr. Holden a "treasured" part of her life. Mrs. Thompson, and her husband, Tom, owned the Coffee Mill in Hampden and Belvedere Square. Mr. Holden worked for the couple for about 13 years until her husband died of cancer in 2003.
"Let me tell you about the light force that was Sam Holden," Mrs. Thompson said Sunday evening. "He had this [unbelievable] sense of life. It is a loss for us. He loved all of us really, really deeply."
Mrs. Thompson said she would never forget the way Mr. Holden helped her while her husband received chemotherapy and radiation.
"Sam was big enough to lift Tom and helped me with those days," she recalled.
By Sunday morning, Mr. Holden's Facebook page was flooded with condolences and images of his work.
"Sam is one of the photographers that has been crucial to City Paper for many, many years," said City Paper editor, Evan Serpick. "This comes as such a huge shock to all of us. We'll miss him not only for his pictures, but his friendship and spirit."
Serpick recalled one of his favorite Holden images—a cover of the Best of Baltimore issue last year featuring John Waters and Rodney Henry.