As always, Maine photographer and master printer Jim Nickelson keeps a running list of competitions worthy of your time to consider. Check it out by this link, and better yet – sign up for his blog:
I’ve used the Maine Historical Society‘s vintage image division several times in the past couple of years to find just the right images for clients. It was easy to use and the staff is very accommodating. The low cost per image provides a resource of real value. Created in 2004, Vintage Maine Images‘ purpose is to showcase historic photographs from the Maine Memory Network that are available for purchase by the public.
An announcement just came to my IN BOX that Vintage Maine Images is celebrating a re-designed website with two events – this Friday, 5/3, is their launch party and it ties in with First Friday, so an easy opportunity to stop in and see what’s what, including an exhibit of cool images. Food, beverages, AND a vintage photo booth are also part of the celebration!
If you’re a business owner and/or a member of the design community, there’s an invitation-only cocktail party: “A Vintage Maine Evening” on May 22 from 5-7 to introduce you to this wonderful treasure and answer your questions about how you can take advantage of it. Want an invite? Write to email@example.com.
There are currently 21,000 images available for purchase and more added every day. Not only photographs can be had for the money: maps, postcards, paintings, broadsides, daguerreotypes, drawings, architectural plans, and letters are there at your fingertips. If you want, VMI will make a print for you, but I always order the image electronically and have my gallery printer (Jim Nickelson) print it for clients. We’re often asked to add location and date as a caption layered on top of the image, and if there are multiple images we neutralize the tones to match if wanted.
Another great development is in the Museum store on Congress St. in Portland – merchandise will feature photographs from Vintage Maine Images and that will be fun to check out.
Many of the works available come from “partners” of the project – historical museums, libraries and museums in Maine and they get half the fee when an image is sold, so…your purchase is a great way to support the preservation of Maine’s past.
Frankly, it’s really fun to troll through this website and I’ve never failed to find what my clients need while having a rather good time doing it.
The camera speaks a universal language, and in Maine no place confirms that quite like Maine Media Workshops in Rockport. Students and instructors come from all over the world to take pictures together. No interpretation necessary.
Sujata Khanna lives in New Delhi, India, but since the summer of 2012 has been a Rockport, ME resident and participant in the Professional Certificate Program at the Workshops. Three other students are in the program: Collin Howell, Adam Pitula and Jourdan Selkowitz. We’ve spent many hours together since September, 2012 in Brenton Hamilton’s History of Photography course learning about those who have shaped photography since 1839.
So, always interested in seeing photographs, and curious about what these four young photographers are up to in their other Certificate Program classes, last November I went to the showing of their fall 2012 documentary studies projects, a course led by Workshops Vice President of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Greenberg. “For many students, that project in the fall is their first experience working on an extended project. A point I emphasize is that the subject of their photographs is not only what is in front of their lens, but rather what is behind the camera – their “concerns” if you will – what it is they are curious about and want to share their unique vision and voice of through their photographs.” she says.
Well. I came away from that humble scene of four projects spread out neatly on re-configured tables in the dining hall kind of unable to blink. I spent a considerable amount of time with the images and their creators, and still feel a little thrill whenever I think of how extraordinary these projects are. These were young, unseasoned photography students? I couldn’t quite believe it.
Besides pricing their work, one of the most common concerns I hear from photographers is their inability to edit their own work – honing, winnowing, chucking until only the very best – the A++ images – are left. Sujata told me she had taken almost 2500 photographs and had edited them down to these…EIGHTEEN. Adam told me a similar story (500 taken, 17 shown), as did Collin (3000 taken, 23 shown). (Jourdan wasn’t able to attend the event.)
But it’s not just about numbers, okay? Most important, they are terrific photographs – and that’s always the priority no matter what is cool about process, content or anything else. Second, these groups of photographs told the stories resulting from weeks of work (Adam tells me he spent about 3 days a week over 6 weeks with his subject) and they told them so well – succinctly, and at same time, very completely. Stories with a beginning, a lot of middle, and a wrap up.
Sujata’s project is titled “Being a Teenager” and she focused entirely on a group of rebellious teens who hang out together in the amphitheater behind the Camden Public Library (see first photo at top). Collin’s project developed down a different track than she had originally thought it would, she told me – she was documenting a woman who is resurrecting a 40 acre farm that had long been dormant. But it was 6 yr. old Sage who became the story instead. Collin says “Sage and her siblings are schooled at home and spend many hours of their day outside helping to run the farm. Sage plays and explores with the wonder of a child, but works with the strength and maturity of an adult. What is it like to be this six year old farmer?”
Adam documented the life of a local hermit. He told me he gradually gained Dave’s trust and was let further and further into his life as the weeks went by. “I remember the first time I saw Dave. He was slowly making his way up the small hill from Camden Harbor towards Elm Street. Groups of tourists moving around him quickly, I watched as he took his time seemingly unaware of the people around him. He stuck out visually in comparison to the other people out on the streets that day, almost like he was from a different time. Dave Conray grew up here, this has always been his home and he was not out of place in the least. Yet he has become somewhat of a stranger in his own habitat. He lives on the outskirts, and spends his days in the heart of town. Just beyond the gaze of society, he occupies the spaces in between.”
Now, just to make things even more interesting, I’m including a couple of photos from Sujata’s winter project – 3515 images taken, 7 selected – and the group of 7 images is perfection – but that perfection you’re not going to see with me isolating these two out of the pack*. She questions, “whether we are aware of the amount we consume, whether we are mindful of the volume of material we throw away that can be reused – are we conscious of the footprint we are creating on the earth?”
And finally, you too, can see the newest work of these students: right now at Zoot coffee shop in Camden Sujata is showing 11 (mostly Portland) photographs taken for a social landscape project in their Visions & Themes class led by Brenton Hamilton. As well, the class will be showing their work in Rockport at the MMW Gallery opening May 30, and at PhoPa Gallery in Portland opening June 12. They deserve your attention.
*But MMW needs to create a link online so these projects can be seen in their entirety. It’s how they were meant to be viewed and I want to get them in front of more people and share their success.
Elizabeth Greenberg says it best: “…it was a major achievement for each of them to refine and develop their ideas and connect those ideas to how they see photographically. There were many “aha” moments.“
If you want to know what 23 years looks like, visit the Portland Museum of Art before 5/19/13 to see the exhibit “Blueberry Rakers: Photographs by David Brooks Stess”.
If you want to see and understand what real, worthwhile lyric documentary photography is, see this exhibit. About 60 images are on view, and yes, Stess has taken 1000′s over the decades. But Susan Danly did such an insightful job curating the work, I can assure you it’s all there. The respect, the trust, the knowledge. Not “insight”. Knowledge. That’s what working from the inside out is. Observers observe. Experts have insight. Stess knows.
In 1989, David Stess was driving around in downeast Maine taking photographs when someone told him he should check out the blueberry rakers, and gave him directions to a local barrens. As he tells it, after what seemed like days on a rocky track, eery figures emerged from the fog.
And in that instant… he knew.
As only Dave Stess can do, he jumped right in – and stayed in – with everything he’s got. Frankly, the project still isn’t quite over, but it’s very close. For the rest of us in the photography community, the portraits he made of the rakers over the last two plus decades say it all: here’s a person who understands what it takes to create something of importance. Ingredients: intimate knowledge, love, respect and trust.
For Dave learned how to rake blueberries. He raked and raked and raked and photographed. He became known as “Super Dave” for his amazing speed. He not only raked next to them, he went home with the rakers after the long, backbreaking, sweaty days to share their food, their living quarters, their games, their talk.
Think Josef Koudelka (Gypsies) and Danny Lyon (The Bikeriders), both early inspirations for Dave. Think Richard Russo (Mohawk, Nobody’s Fool, Straight Man, Empire Falls and most recently the autobiography Elsewhere) who wrote the catalog essay introducing David’s exhibit to the public. Russo knows firsthand: he kicked off his rise to literary stardom writing about the upstate NY towns and culture he grew up in. Russo gets it right – and the reading public knows it.
David Stess earned the trust of his subjects by entering their world without reservations. He “got it” – what they do and why they do it. How hardscrabble and uncertain such a life is. Weather, bosses, machines, bad crop – you are a pawn in the very tough and unforgiving world of harvesting.
It’s okay to take photographs of others who live differently, but more often than not, taking photographs as an outsider is closer to invasive voyeurism on the part of the photographer and the viewers. When young writers are told “Write what you know.” this is no rhetoric. Photographers need to make an investment of time and psyche to their subjects to earn their trust, but just as important, so they take photographs from the inside out, from what they know, not just what they see. There’s a difference and it’s a big one.
I honor David Brooks Stess. We are very different people, he and I. But I know the real thing when I see it.
(David’s photographs are in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art, Farnsworth Art Museum and many private and corporate collections. He was the first artist I took on to represent work when I started VoxPhotographs in 2007. He is still represented by VoxPhotographs.)
Update! April 15: Tim’s a cool guy. You’ll like him. He’ll be talking about this collection on Sunday, April 21, at 2 p.m. at PhoPa in Portland. His talk is titled “The Inside Story.” I love behind-the-scenes insider stuff. If you do too, head up the hill on Sunday and enjoy yourself.
Tim Whelan doesn’t know it, but he changed my life. Back in say, 2005, after I had sold my publishing company, I was self-studying photo history. But I wanted more. I went online to locate a college-level course, but had no luck: anything available required studio work courses.
One day I dropped into Tim’s bookstore in Rockport. It was mecca for anyone in the midcoast area interested in photographs, especially the staff and students at Maine Media Workshops around the corner. I complained to him about my lack of success in finding an accessible course anywhere in the country on the history of photography. Tim looked at me and said, “But the best course is right here in Rockport.” Hello? Yep, the photo world’s best kept secret is Brenton Hamilton’s History of Photography course at Maine Media Workshops, part of the Certificate Program offered there. I signed up and five minutes into the first lecture I was on the edge of my seat with excitement. Here was someone who understood art is tied into everything! Thus began many happy hours and years at Brenton’s feet soaking up how we got to where we, in the photography community, are today. And because of Brenton’s inspiring teaching, I started VoxPhotographs to represent Maine’s fine art photographers. So, Tim Whelan was vital to me, my artists, and countless students and instructors at Maine Media Workshops over the decades. He was the hub of a community wheel.
Tim was, among many things photographic, a student at the workshops from time to time, and tells me the tradition was to trade your work with the other students in your class and the instructor. So, since his first purchase (thanks, Mom!) – Ansel Adams’ “Clearing Winter Storm”, a whopping $25 per print at Yosemite National Park almost 50 years ago – and through several different means, Whelan has built a collection of perhaps 1,000 prints and thus, we have a glimpse into that collection on view through May 4 at PhoPa Gallery in Portland. The show is curated by Bruce Brown and Jon Edwards.
The exhibit starts off with four sweet landscape photographs by Tim himself, and then immediately kicks into high gear with two Joyce Tenneson images, including the gorgeous “Dasha, Russia”. Circle around the 38 works from the collection to see who you know and who you don’t, and then go around again to focus on the images.
Besides Tenneson, Maine is well represented with Paul Caponigro, Jon Edwards, Dave Stess, Olive Pierce (an exhibit of her work is part of the summer exhibit schedule at PhoPa), Tillman Crane, and Madeleine de Sinety. Oh, and Gary Briechle, that elusive and brilliant Camden photographer who, Tim told me, just launched a website.
What I like about this exhibit is seeing old friends, yes. But I also like learning about photographers I’m not familiar with but who have definitely made their mark. There is bio info. available on each photographer and it’s a resource to spend time with.
So this exhibit is a great antidote to cabin fever and feeds our mud-season need for a change of scenery. You can explore the work of artists like Arno Minkkenen, Lary Wiese, Ted Orland, John Isaac and others who deserve our attention, and feel like you’ve experienced a glimpse of spring – fresh, unexpected and beckoning.
Robert Frank (The Americans, 1958) said this: “Like a boxer trains for a fight, a photographer needs to practice by getting out and taking pictures every day. It doesn’t matter how many he takes or if he takes any at all. It gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of or what is the right thing to do and when.”
To say Frank knew what he was talking about is an understatement. After securing a Guggenheim grant in 1955, Frank spent almost two years traveling all over the USA, and the end result was over 27,000 images. He edited those down to 83 to create one of the most seminal photography books ever – The Americans. And that editing process is the topic of another posting down the road.
Anyone who aspires to be an accomplished pianist practices for hours every day. Ditto an athlete. Why is it then that “artists” feel entitled to wait for “inspiration”? I remember someone responding to my husband’s comment that he’s in the studio Mon-Fri with astonishment: “You mean you go in and paint every day???!!” Hello?
Last week I ran into Dave Wade, whose work is represented by VoxPhotographs. He was out in Tommy’s Park in Portland on a gray, yucky day taking pictures. I have to wonder if he ever leaves the house without that camera in his hand. I doubt it.
The day before I had teasingly reminded Jim Nickelson, also part of the gallery stable, and in the midst of creating an extraordinary full moon series, that the night before had been a full moon, hint, hint. I knew he had company for the week, was flooded with work, and has a 6 year old he’s mightily involved in caring for, so my job dropped when he said: “I know. I drove to Acadia and shot pictures.” I should have known.
Yes, I’m fortunate to have gallery artists who are dead serious about their work. They don’t just talk about it. They know “inspiration” is a fleeting moment of insight and vision, not a formula for success. That formula is called working.
Here are some happenings that will really perk up your February – don’t miss any of them:
University of Maine Museum of Art – Dog Run: Michael Crouser – on view through March 3.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art – The Fixed Image: History and Process in American Photography – on view through March 3.
PhoPa Gallery – BAD ASS – Photographs by Melonie Bennett – on view through March 30. Opening Reception, February 14, 5 p.m. Artist talk: Sunday, March 17, 2 p.m.
Maine Museum of Photographic Arts – Terrain Vague (Part I): 1998-2010. Photographs by Gary M. Green, University of Southern Maine, Glickman Family Library. Through May 3, 2013. Opening Reception, February 7, 5-7 p.m. Artist talk: March 15, 2-3:30.
And to while away a few hours in a highly productive way – connect with Jim Nickelson’s latest blog posting for a list of Calls for Entries! Get the word out about your work!
If there’s anything else going on that I’m not aware of, please make me aware!