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Passings: Tony Edgeworth, Gentlemanly Photographer of Gentlemanly Pursuits, Dies at 84

By David Schonauer   Thursday April 8, 2021


Anthony Downes Edgeworth got a late start in photography.

Born in 1936 in Dover, Delaware, he attended the University of Virginia, where he studied architecture and French, but, according to one account, he thought acting was what he really wanted to do. Instead, he joined the army and ended up stationed in post-World War II Berlin, where, as the writer Laurence Shames noted in American Photographer magazine in 1981, Edgeworth “saw combat in several nightclubs.”

After the army, he went to Hollywood, but instead of acting jobs he found work in a men’s clothing store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He later tried his hand as a stockbroker and as traveling salesman pushing expensive tweed suits. By 1969, at age 34 years, he finally found something that instilled in him a determined ambition: He had been given a Leica rangefinder and three lenses as a wedding present, and he decided to learn how to use them.

Edgeworth began taking night courses at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, studying alongside people much younger — and sartorially different — than he. Whereas Edgeworth wore gray wool suits and custom-made shoes, noted Shames, his fellow students might not be wearing shoes at all.

He then went to work as an assistant for Pete Turner, the renowned photographer whose studio gave rise to a number of prominent careers, including that of photographer Eric Meola. Edgeworth himself would go on to a highly successful career. In the 1970s, he had a studio on Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street in New York, the photo district of the day, where he did magazine and advertising work for clients like Sports Illustrated, New York, Paris Match, Fortune, Travel & Leisure and Town & Country, as well as Polaroid, Chrysler, and American Express. He eventually published 14 books, most notably a series focusing on legendary golf clubs of the world.

Edgeworth died on March 14, at age 84.

“What made Tony’s work unique,” said friend, writer Michael M. Thomas, in an obituary in The Coastal Star of South Florida, “was that he understood these places and their courses from the inside. He himself was a member of several of them, and that gave him insights into their character that enabled him to get it right.”

His big break, noted Shames in his 1981 profile of the photographer, came after he left Turner’s studio and was sent to England by Esquire magazine to shoot the resplendently-accoutered Household Division Guards. The subject, wrote Shames, “suited Edgeworth perfectly,” and would lead to one of his best-known books, The Guards (Crown Publishers, 1981).

Edgeworth would also produce similar studies of military splendor in two other books, The Marines and The Institute: Virginia Military Institute.

Beginning in 1999, Edgeworth began producing (in collaboration with writer John de St. Jorre) his book series on private golf courses. The series includes Legendary Golf Clubs of Scotland, England Wales & Ireland (1999); Legendary Golf Clubs of the American East (2003); Legendary Golf Links of Ireland (2006); Legendary Golf Clubs of the American Midwest (2013); and The Deepdale Golf Club (2019).

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