Feature – April 2015
By Jaime Thompson
Six Maine photographers find new ways of making images
“Maine is a unique crucible for what’s happening in photography today,” says Margaret Weston, president of Maine Media Workshops and College. Weston points to the large number of photographers working in the state who use alternative methods for creating images. “It’s not easy to make a living in photography, so people have to be innovative,” she says. “They have to break through and do things in different ways.” Denise Froehlich, director of the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts and a photographer in her own right, agrees: “The medium is looking forward and becoming less two-dimensional, as it’s incorporating other disciplines, such as sculpture, film, new media, and historical media.” Maine photography is in flux; its constant evolution keeps it an exciting area to watch.
Jeffery C. Becton, Caleb Charland, Brenton Hamilton, Damir Porobic, Todd Watts, and Shoshannah White are six artists pushing the boundaries of photography, embracing unconventional processes to make dynamic works of art.
Becton is a pioneer in digital art. His digital montages blend interior and exterior scenes, like the ocean seeping in through the open doors of an empty room, a cloudy sky on the ceiling above a chaise lounge, or fog-obscured islands layered over an image of an open window. “The important thing about his work is that he uses New England interiors and landscapes to compose work that speaks about the hereafter and our fragile existence,” says Froehlich.
Watts is another photographer who employs digital techniques. He brings whimsicality, a touch of the sinister, and a Pop Art sensibility to his work. Strong shapes and unusual color combinations feature heavily in his graphic, bold photographs.
Other artists look back to the beginnings of photography for inspiration. Hamilton, a photo historian and instructor at Maine Media Workshops, uses nineteenth-century photographic processes in modern ways. His surreal, collage-inspired images evoke dreamlike worlds and classical motifs.
Similarly inspired by historical techniques, White applies encaustic to her photographs, achieving depth and texture that enhance her images’ atmospheric qualities. Landscapes and portraits of plants and other everyday objects become ethereal and haunting.
Porobic, a professor in the University of Southern Maine’s art department, creates hazy photo-composite prints by layering transparent images on top of each other. Printing several images on a single sheet of paper, Porobic is able to transform photographs of everyday objects into artifacts from dreams and memories. Bruce Brown, curator at Portland’s PhoPa Gallery and avid art collector, admires Porobic’s “brilliant, unique work.”
Stripping photography to its bare bones, Charland’s striking experimental work has garnered him worldwide attention. “He’s part scientist, part photographer, and very interested in energy, both physically and philosophically,” Froehlich says. He uses only candlelight and photo paper to create the elemental, abstract images in his series The Artifacts of Fire and Wax.
Through varying techniques and styles, these photographers demonstrate not only innovation but also their own idiosyncratic visions. As Brown says, Maine photographers produce “distinctive work,” displaying “a personal vision that is theirs alone.”