Shipwrecked, Overlooked & Obsolete


Meggan Gould


Glass Slides, 2013 (from the series Bureau of Visual Instruction), archival pigment print, 17” x 22”


Beat It, 2013 (from the series Relics), archival pigment print, 16” x 16”


Robert Moran ?


Nicole Wolf


Porthole, 2013 (from the series Sunk), digital inkjet photograph, 15” x 15”

THE CANVAS – March 2014
By Britta Konau

Photographers Nicole Wolf, Meggan Gould, and Robert Moran aim their lenses at objects that have been shipwrecked, are generally overlooked, or have become obsolete. These relics of the past are cultural artifacts that have affected real lives in previous decades or even centuries. Their images thus become reminders of the relentless passage of time, often accelerated by human invention, and embrace a certain amount of nostalgia that is always tempered by formal interest and conceptual framework.

Nicole Wolf

Born and raised on Canada’s Grand Manan Island, Nicole Wolf received her artistic education in the United States. Since 2001 she has owned and operated a photography and design company in Washington, D.C., called SOTA Dzine. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Wolf worked in Port-au-Prince as a photo journalist. Her photographs have been published in magazines and newspapers that include the Washingtonian, the Washington Post, Photo District News, Maine magazine, and Maine Home+Design. Wolf had solo exhibitions at the Grand Manan Art Gallery in 2010 and 2012 and at the Saint John Arts Center in New Brunswick in 2011. Her work was included in the 2010 exhibition Capture: 50 Photographic Artists, organized by the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts, and has received numerous awards from magazines and organizations like Photo District News, National Geographic, and the Maine Media Workshops.

The daughter of a lobsterman, Wolf grew up with a personal appreciation of the sea and anything nautical. It is thus not surprising that her first personal project, Sea of Faces (2008–2009), focused on the fishing community of Grand Manan. The richness but also harshness of the lives of these seafaring men is captured in alluring images of great formal and coloristic beauty. “The purpose of my work is to share the voices of those who may never have the opportunity to speak,” says Wolf, which may supply the link to her second body of work, Behind Broken Walls, photographs taken in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. Like Sea of Faces, these images combine the documentary with personal involvement, as the artist kept going back to Haiti for four years, living with families in the tent cities. Wolf volunteered for several NGOs and started a foundation for relief funds called Up from Under. Essential to her efforts are her photographs and videos of families displaced by the disaster, which convey a deep sense of shared humanity. Wolf says, “We are connected—we desire to be understood, to be seen, to belong—it is this understanding which moves us forward.” Understandably, the artist is still reluctant to have an exhibition of her Haiti images or to share them in a commercial context.

On the surface, Wolf’s series Sunk, started in 2013, may not have much in common with previous work, yet continuities do exist. The images depict detritus from shipwrecks around Grand Manan Island that has been saved by friends and family members. The artist photographs each remainder in an old smoke shed, which heightens the sense of age and nostalgia. Porthole, with its colorful rust and patina, perfectly illustrates what draws Wolf to these objects—“They look like they were still in the belly of the sinking ship, like they were still living on the bottom of the ocean,” she says. She is fascinated by everything that lives in the ocean and also by the fact that people in old island communities are extremely reluctant to throw anything away. The images in Sunk are thus definitely formal still lifes, yet they are also portraits, full of character, history, and a sense of the people who have lived with these objects over time.

Meggan Gould

Meggan Gould taught for six years at Bowdoin College in Brunswick and is now assistant professor of photography at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She has had solo and two-person shows at Space Gallery in Portland (2012), SRO Photo Gallery at Texas Tech University in Lubbock (2010), the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (2010), and the Photographic Society of India in Mumbai (2006). Her work was included in last year’s important Maine Women Pioneers III at the University of New England Art Gallery in Portland. Over the years Gould has participated in group exhibitions throughout the country as well as in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, South Korea, and Thailand. She has lectured widely about her work and photography in general and has received numerous awards and residencies, among them the prestigious artist-in-residence position at Syracuse University’s Light Work. Gould’s photographs are collected by the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the Shearman Fine Arts Building at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the Rhizome ArtBase Net and Media Collection at the New Museum in New York, among other institutions. She is represented by Portland’s VoxPhotographs.

Gould is a process-oriented observer of our culture of photography, its designations of importance, tacit exclusions, and constructions of vision. Some of her photographic series are extensive and utilize whatever technique, print process, and camera the artist’s inquiry requires, ranging from a 4 x 5 view camera to a digital pinhole camera or none at all. In Gould’s smart and inquisitive images medium and subject are one and the same.

Among Gould’s series is a 2000–2006 exploration of the interaction between her body and her camera. Shooting thousands of pictures while holding the camera in her hand without looking through the viewfinder—as if sight was running through her body—the artist circumvented the choice of picture-worthy subjects. In the Internet-sourced Go ogle series (2004–2006), Gould explores pictorial consensus as she combines specific visual search results into single images that include all others, literally incorporating a whole range of realities. Verso looks at the backs of old photographs, which often feature messages, interestingly shaped remainders of the black paper they were once glued to, and other markings that in themselves outline a partial history of photography. More important, however, Gould’s images emphasize that even the representational, image-carrying fronts of these photos supply only very fragmentary narratives.

Gould describes her current series, Bureau of Visual Instruction, from which Glass Slides stems, as “an open-ended dissection of photographic vision.” As a teacher, instruction and the making of photographs have been pivotal in Gould’s career. With her eyes and conceptual acuity sharpened by this experience, Gould is now engaging in what she calls “free-form playing with the detritus of the process.” Her images depict remainders of ink from printer cartridges, symbols on cameras and within viewfinders, the disassembled parts of LCD sensors—elements important in the generation of photographs but usually relegated to the background of the process. Beauty is thus found in chance and the openness to its discovery. The title and concrete inspiration for this series derives from the artist’s discovery of a box of old slides that circulated in the Chicago Public School system about a century ago. The close-up view in Glass Slides abstracts its subject into horizontal variations of color and surface of uncertain scale. Gould pays attention to overlooked materials, unconscious decision making, and hierarchies of perception as they relate to today’s most ubiquitous medium, photography.

Robert Moran ?

Robert Moran was bitten by the photography bug upon briefly meeting famous photographer Robert Frank while still in college. However, he did not become a full-time photographer until selling his apparel and souvenir enterprise, Cool as a Moose, in 2007. Now he is a widely exhibiting artist who in 2013 alone was included in group shows in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Washington, Ireland, and Guatemala. Moran has had three solo exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Massachusetts, and also one at the 2013 Magenta Flash Forward Festival in Boston. Print and online magazines like The Photo Review, F-Stop, and B&W + Color, as well as the blog LENSCRATCH, have published his images. Moran’s work can be seen at the Gallery on Main in Southwest Harbor, and is also currently on display at Rockport’s Maine Media Workshops Gallery (March 3–April 12) as part of the contest show Dreams, in which Moran won a Grand Prize in Photography.

While running his highly successful business Moran traveled widely and fell in love with the African desert, which he experienced as “a total escape from the modern world.” His tonally rich black-and-white images taken in the Sahara Desert and West Africa between 1999 and 2004 describe lives apparently untouched by technological progress. Moran also photographed in Newfoundland and Scotland’s Shetland Islands, remote places he values for being outside of the hustle and bustle of modern life, as he explains it. The artist digitally turned many of these small-town scenes into nighttime images to invest them with a sense of mystery and timelessness. The artist’s preoccupation with the past and search for an escape come into clear, almost morbid focus in his series After Life, lush and beautiful color photographs of a well-known cemetery in Buenos Aires.

In 2011 Moran initiated the series Relics by photographing objects of practical use that have become obsolete. Among them are a small television set with rabbit-ear antennas, a tabletop jukebox, and a manual typewriter, all purchased from antique shops, flea markets, and online. Placed on a shelf, the objects are photographed individually against neutral but subtly varied backgrounds, like studio portraits that capture the objects’ use and importance in previous owners’ lives. “My aim is to honor our inventive past and save some of its icons from the trash heap of memory,” the artist explains. As historical specimens, the items embody steps in the evolution of technology, and some viewers may recall personally using these once commonplace devices. The sleeker, more efficient contemporary counterparts that have displaced them are certainly familiar to all of us.

But these images are far from being just technical documents. Their warm tones and focus on the objects’ visual interest—their three-dimensional forms and color schemes—reveal Moran’s early training in sculpture and keen eye for beauty.