A Life: Hanson Carroll, 1928-2013; ‘He Always Got the Picture’
While on a magazine assignment in the Bahamas in the late 1980s, Hanson Carroll holds up a bonefish he caught. Carroll lived in the Florida Keys for the past 20 years, where he enjoyed catch and release flyfishing. (Family photograph)
Paul and Glenna Gardener were photographed by Hanson Carroll on their cross-country skis in East Corinth, Vt. -- it was published on the cover of Vermont Life's Winter 1985 issue. (Hanson Carroll photograph)
Hanson Carroll's wife Gloria treks uphill at the Strafford Town House after a fresh snowfall in Feb. 1977. Another photo from the day of Gloria Carroll and a local dog was published on the cover of the Winter 1978 issue of Vermont Life. (Hanson Carroll phtogoraph)
Gina Lancaster runs downhill at Pomfret's Sugar Bowl Farm in a photograph that was featured on Vermont Life's Winter 1970-71 cover. (Hanson Carroll photograph)
Hanson Carroll poses for a self-portrait in 1952, early in a career where he worked for outdoor sporting magazines as a freelance photographer. (Hanson Carroll photograph)
Norwich — An old aphorism says “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Longtime Vermont resident Hanson Carroll did just that.
For Carroll, a freelance photographer who had work published in Sports Illustrated and The New York Times , work was play and play was work.
“He thought of photography 24/7. He would have an idea, he would pitch the idea and if he got any sort of interest in his idea, he would go set it up, shoot it and make it happen,” said his son, Jay Carroll, of White Salmon, Wash. “He didn’t just get pictures, he made them.”
Carroll, a longtime Norwich resident, died at his Plantation Key, Fla., home on Nov. 23, 2013, of natural causes. He had just celebrated his 85th birthday.
What started as a work assignment for Carroll turned into a dedicated adventure involving thought and skill. He often searched high and low for props to use in his photographs, whether it be casting a line to catch a fish for that perfect photo, or calling up a nearby fisherman for assistance. There were no limits.
“He always got the picture, that was the end result,” said Francis Roy, of Hartford, who worked at the Camera Shop of Hanover where Carroll would often take his camera equipment to be repaired. “If I took a camera and lens in trade, someone would come by and look at it and see it beat up, and would say that must have belonged to Hanson Carroll. He was hard on his equipment. But that meant he got the picture.”
Persistence was key, said his son Chris Carroll, of Norwich.
As today’s photography differs from half a century ago, Carroll was pressed to take dozens of steps before, during and after the initial shoot to produce his images.
“They didn’t have the ability to make a fish jump that isn’t even there or make a smile look better,” Chris Carroll said, comparing mid-1950s photography to today’s digital era. “Everything had to be seen and viewed and turned into the artistic form that they needed.”
The majority of Carroll’s assignments took place in the outdoors, which was reflective of many of his favorite pastimes. Carroll loved to fly and sport fish, hunt, ski, snowshoe, sail, canoe, kayak, and ride and race enduro, or off-road, motorcycles and sports cars.
“You name it, he did it,” Chris Carroll said.
Hanson Carroll had files and files of photographs that he thought out and shot on the fly. He would bank the majority of them, just in case a media organization called up and needed a specific shot.
And the calls certainly kept coming in.
Carroll had his photographs published in hunting magazines, such as, Sports Afield and Field & Stream, as well as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Vermont Life, United Press International a nd the Valley News, to name a few.
In separate interviews, Jay and Chris Carroll recalled their father’s photo adventures leading to some enjoyable childhood afternoons, such as when snowmobiles showed up in their yard one winter for a set of photos their father was working on.
“We had like three of the nicest snowmobiles that were made and we just took pictures and made photos,” Jay Carroll said. “When he was done, after a couple of months, we wouldn’t have them anymore .”
Though Carroll was married to Louise Loening from 1950 to 1956 — the two had a daughter, Mia — his l ifelong passion for the outdoors and athletics led him to his second wife, Gloria Densmore, a radiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The two wed in 1958, and were married for nearly 40 years.
Carroll and Densmore, who died in 1997, met during a sports car rally with a Dartmouth sports driving club — the two both drove MG sports cars.
Jay Carroll said one day his father injured his leg and Densmore was his X-ray technician.
“He was sitting there in his little gown waiting for his X-ray and she said, ‘Does your door squeak too?’, ” a reference to the quirks of the British MGs. And from there on out the two started a life in Norwich together.
They settled down in a New Boston Road farmhouse purchased in the early 1950s by Carroll and Loening.
While in Norwich, Carroll built and worked on photo sets, spent hours in his darkroom, practiced skeet shooting in the yard and ran a dog kennel where he boarded and trained hunting dogs. Not only would he train his own pups, he would also train other peoples’ dogs.
“It’s a big family memory,” Jay Carroll said. “There was a big fall breakfast we would have before people would go out bird hunting.”
The American Kennel Club president, a former columnist for The New York Times, relatives and friends were some of the various attendees each fall.
“They’d all flock into Vermont for bird season,” he said.
Carroll loved his Norwich home, but tragedy struck in 1981 when a fire damaged roughly half of the farmhouse and up to 70 percent o f his photographs.
Chris Carroll said he remembers digging through charred files.
“It was miserable,” he said.
But C arroll rebuilt — both the structure and his photo stockpile.
Carroll was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 15, 1928, and moved shortly after his birth to Hartland with his parents Marshall and Josephine Carroll . His parents ran the Three Pines Dairy Farm on the Hartland/Quechee line.
At an early age, Carroll left home and became a crew member aboard the research vessel Atlantis, a state-of-the-art ship operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Woods Hole, Mass.
“It is one of the most sophisticated research vessels afloat,” according to the institution’s website.
Following his stint aboard the vessel, Carroll enlisted in the Army and became an infantryman until his discharge in 1951 — age 24 — at which point he returned to Vermont and settled down on the Norwich farm.
“He was a get up and go kind of guy. Everything was on deck — kind of like the longshoreman way,” Jay Carroll said. “There was always something going on. There was never a dull moment.”
Another one of Hanson Carroll’s deep-rooted passions was sailing up and down the eastern seaboard from the Maine Coast to the Florida Keys and even out to the Caribbean Sea.
Jeremy Dickson, of Bradford, Vt., a former co-owner of White River Junction and Lebanon-based ProCam, used to sail with Carroll.
“We did a great deal of sailing with them when they were in the neighborhood to various locations and beaches,” Dickson said. “We would go to shore and swim and party.”
Dickson remembered Carroll as a “character,” but as a giving and healing individual.
“He was very dedicated, very, very dedicated,” Dickson added.
Throughout the 1990s, Carroll called the Florida Keys home, specifically Plantation Key, and spent summers in Vermont. After 1997, Florida became his permanent home.
While in the Sunshine State, Carroll celebrated six years of sobriety from alcohol. Jay Carroll said drinking had been a problem for his father throughout the years, but later in life, his father turned it around.
“We were really proud of him because it was rough at first, but he jumped right on the wagon and stayed on the wagon,” Jay Carroll said.
Though diagnosed with dementia in his ’80s, Carroll led an active lifestyle right up until his last day, riding a 10 speed touring bicycle five miles daily. He still enjoyed rides in his two-seat convertible Miata.
“He had a way of getting the most out of everything he did. If he had the opportunity to go out and do something, there was never any regret,” Chris Carroll said. “He had a tremendous ability to literally reach out and get the best out of every day.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.