Table of Contents

Marion's Story

I've been accused of telling lies about Marion's life. To this I can only say that almost everything I know about her life came directly from her in the many conversations we had about her past. Some details were verified for me by her best friend, Samantha, and other details filled in from friends of hers that I managed to track down in North Carolina, Florida, and Washington, DC.

Marion was born on June 30, 1983 in North Carolina. I know this because when I first began photographing her she had lost her drivers license and gave me a copy of her birth certificate as ID until she got a replacement license from North Carolina. She described her father as an "old hippie" who smoked pot all the time, and even had grown some. He was a contractor by profession, building homes in their area of North Carolina. I only had the opportunity to meet him once, at the wake he held at his house after Marion's memorial service. I had wanted him to testify at my trial, but, unfortunately, he became very ill and actually died during the trial.

When Marion was three years old her parents divorced, and for most of her childhood she alternated back and forth between two radically different homes. At some point, although I don't think she ever told me the date, her father remarried to a woman who already had two older ooys. Marion's mother went on to have two more daughters, each with a different father. One sister, whose name I can't remember (or perhaps she never told me) was living in New York City and doing some sort of work related to the theater. I never met this sister, and Marion only mentioned that she existed once or twice. The other sister, Katie, was closer to her, and she had me put Katie's birthday into my computer calendar so she would not forget it. When we were in Massachusetts on our last trip together we went to Yankee Candle and I reminded her of the birthday, and we picked out a joke card for her.

Marion said her mother lived for a long time "at the beach", Morehead City, NC, and Marion lived there with her some of the time. She had a lot of stories about her life at the beach, stories like stealing her mother's car at the age of 13, even though it was a stick shift and she really didn't know how to drive it, and going "joy riding" with friends. She had a lot of fights with her mother over her drug use, although she said her dad refused to face the fact of her drug problems.

Although mostly full of happy memories, her time at the beach was also associated with one serious trauma that we talked about at length. She said that one of the times when she was on the outs with her mother she went to live with some black friends "in the projects". It was while she was living there that she was "raped up the butt with a gun to my head", an incident that she also detailed in one of her journals, one of the two missing ones. She found this doubly traumatic, first because of the violence of the event, and secondly by her own reaction, which was terror that turned into arousal and orgasm.

Also at the age of 13, according to Marion, her drug abuse really began, along with sexual molestation by a male "family member". She would never tell me who this was, and I didn't push as hard as perhaps I should have since it was very traumatic for her to speak about and I though it would all come out in time if we kept having our regular deep conversations. I think she also thought that if she identified the person to me I might try to do something to cause him trouble. She didn't want that, she just wanted to put this whole thing behind her. But it wouldn't leave her alone, and she was suffering from all of the usual signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. She had an incredibly exaggerated startle response. I could walk out of the room for five minutes and walk back in and scare her. I had to be very careful when she was sleeping not to awaken her by touch. Her startle response was so strong that I worried she would have heart failure. I had never known anyone with such a strong startle response. Another tipoff was that Marion had the worst case of "white coat syndrome" that I have encountered, an abject terror of doctors, dentists, nurses, or anyone else in the health field. Before I realized how serious a problem this was for her, I jokingly put a stethoscope around my neck intern-style and walked out of the dressing room. She nearly fainted, and made me promise never to do anything like that again. Also, she used to put things on the stove to cook and immediately forget about them. I returned to a smoke-filled apartment several times, and replaced pots and pans. One day we were driving out into the country for a photo shoot. I had the radio tuned to public radio and they were having one of their talk shows. On this one they were interviewing Cambodians who had been arrested and tortured by the Pol Pot regime. One woman was saying that she had practically lost the ability to cook for her family because she had burned up all their pots and pans by walking away and forgetting about them. When Marion heard this she turned pale, and quickly turned off the radio. Tearfully she told me she just couldn't listen to that story. When I described these symptoms to my doctor one day, he said that he would bet that she had been sexually molested as a child, and that these were "classic symptoms" of sexual abuse.

Marion was a hypersexual by the time I met her. Victims of abuse often become hypersexual; put everything in life into sexual terms and exhibit exhibitionism in many cases. Marion had that in spades. She was much more comfortable, she said, without clothes, and when we were alone together she rarely wore anything. This made her an ideal nude model, since she could hardly wait until we got into the studio to shed her clothes. From many points of view, she was the best photographic model I ever worked with, and seemed to have an almost telepathic ability to know what I was going to suggest in pose or motif for photos. Left on her own, she could dance through a series of poses, every one great. It was like she could see herself through the camera's eye. She remarked several times that it was like looking at someone else when we reviewed the photos from a day's shoot. She had discovered a talent she had never known she had when the first tried photographic modeling in early 2002.

Marion was looking for a way to make a living doing something besides working in restaurants and fast food places, the only types of "real jobs" she'd ever had. She had dropped out of high school, but later went on to earn her GED. I found her far more literate than the average high school graduate I run into these days, and a good writer with an excellent understanding of grammar and punctuation.

Marion told me she had been to see "every therapist in the book" to try and deal with her problems. She had also been prescribed "every psychoactive drug there is". I know that she had been institutionalized for drug abuse as an early teen, since she had kept a diary of the time in that hospital. She let me read the diary, or more accurately insisted that I read it to help understand her. She told me she was diagnosed as strongly bipolar, and that certainly was true. I could never predict from one day to the next which Marion I would encounter. Her highs and lows were extreme.

She was also dyslexic, but not so much that it seemed to interfere with her ability to read. It was more of a left-right confusion problem. Over the years of photographing women I have found this to be very common, and stopped long ago giving posing directions with left and right as terms. Now I say "Move the arm closest to me," or point.

Marion told me about her past is bits and pieces, and I've attempted to put them together on paper in some sort of order, but I can't guarantee that things are in chronological order. When I met her in April of 2002, she told me her family had given up on her, and that she was living on the streets, sleeping on park benches and eating candy bars. She said she had picked up some money for a while working for a guy who ran a "strip-o-gram" service, and she would show up at the appropriate door and pull up her shirt and flash her breasts. She also said that she had tried exotic dancing, and really loved to do it but didn't like the kind of men who came to those places. She wanted something better, and when she tried modeling she was amazed that she could earn good money for showing off her body, something she loved to do anyway.

In her experience with men before me she had developed a very commercial idea about sex. It was something you exchanged for something else that you wanted. She was surprised that I did not view it that way. She said that all of her other boyfriends would have demanded sex for a week if they had done nice things for her like I did.

As a part of her attitude about sex, Marion liked to string men along. She said she could talk to me about everything, and she did, including the other men she was leading on. She told me she was doing this with Rob, her drug supplier, to insure that he only got her really good stuff, not "dirt". Rob testified that he thought she was going to marry him. At the same time she had an old boyfriend named Brian who came to visit her in Radford, and she sent him home to North Carolina with a promise to marry him. All the while her other old boyfriend, Jackson, was waiting in the wings with the assurance that she would marry him. Then, when we were in Las Vegas in March of 2003 she took off one evening to walk around on the strip, and came back high with a young hispanic man in tow. His name was Charles de los Santos, and she began carrying on a torrid correspondence with him, printing out the letters on nude photos of herself, and describing in graphic detail what the two of them could do the next time she came to Las Vegas. How do I know about this? She had. me read the letters. She was having a ball leading the men "around by their dicks". It was a game to her. When I worried that she might be doing the same with me, she insisted that I was completely different. I do know that the only really serious fight we ever had was during that same trip to Las Vegas, when she decided one evening that we were going to one of the all-night wedding chapels and getting married. I told her that was impossible, that I was still married, but she just said "they don't check, I saw a show about it on TV". When I refused she completely lost her temper and started throwing things and yelling, and I thought we would get thrown out of the hotel for the noise. After a couple of hours it was like it had never happened, just one of her ups and downs.

After we had worked together for a while, Marion got very interested in the behind-the-canera part of photography and used to borrow my still and video cameras and do her own shoots. She had a really good eye, and I'm sure could have picked up the technical part easily. Our last trip was up to Massachusetts to visit the Halmark Institute of Photography, for a planned Shutterbug magazine story. Marion was completely fascinated by this excellent school and we talked to the people there, many of whom were old friends of mine, about enrolling her the following year. She spent a lot of time talking to the students there, and I think would have done well had she gone there as planned.

To be sure, there is certainly much I don't know about Marion. We only knew each other just over a year, and even though we talked all the time I'm sure there was much she didn't tell me, and a lot that I have forgotten. I'll try to add more to this story as I recall things.