In Maine, and Far Beyond
by Rebecca Falzano
Madeleine de Sinéty: Photographs at the Portland Museum of Art
Madeleine de Sinéty has spent the last four decades traveling the world, documenting some of the most rural corners of the globe. For three out of those four decades, she has called Rangeley, Maine, home—her own personal rural corner of the world.
The exhibition Madeleine de Sinéty: Photographs opens September 24 at the Portland Museum of Art and will feature sixty black-and-white and color images that represent the breadth of de Sinéty’s photographic essays. The images will focus on three subjects de Sinéty spent years exploring: traditional French farm families in a small region of Brittany, village life in Uganda, and the work of a logger in northern Maine who, until recently, used draft horses to pull logs from the woods.
Born in 1939 to aristocratic parents, de Sinéty was raised in France at her family’s Loire Valley château and spent time in Algeria on her family’s date plantation. As a young woman, she worked in Paris as an illustrator for magazines and newspapers. After marrying an American scientific writer, she moved to the United States in 1980. As a longtime resident of Maine, de Sinéty has kept connected to the contemporary photographic scene through her contacts with the Maine Media Workshops and her work with famed artist William Wegman, whose work she documented when he was in Rangeley making large Polaroid portraits of his dogs. Documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark, one of de Sinéty’s mentors at the Maine Media Workshops, assisted in editing for this exhibition and provided the introduction to the catalogue published by the museum.
When PMA curator Susan Danly paid de Sinéty a studio visit, she quickly realized that the artist had a compelling body of work that had never been seen in Maine. “This is an important opportunity to look at the work of a Maine photographer who takes us out of our state a bit,” says Danly. “The three areas of focus for the exhibition may sound independent of one another, but when you see the show together, you see that de Sinéty has a particular view of life in these very disparate places. She’s not interested in the picturesque side of Maine. She captures the grittier, more personal side. It’s a very distinctive point of view.”